THE UNBOUND PROMETHEUS: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present

By Barnhill, John H. | Military Review, July/August 2004 | Go to article overview

THE UNBOUND PROMETHEUS: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present


Barnhill, John H., Military Review


THE UNBOUND PROMETHEUS: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present, David S. Landes, 2d ed., Cambridge University Press, New York, 2003, 576 pages, $75.00.

For over 30 years The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Westem Europe from 1750 to the Present has been the basic text about the Industrial Revolution-the pivotal development that allowed Western Europe to dominate the world economically, militarily, and politically for centuries.

David S. Landes emphasizes entrepreneurial spirit and freedom to experiment as the key to why the Industrial Revolution occurred first in Europe. Also, size mattered, for although the small island nation of England had few natural resources, it did have transportation networks and easy access to ports through which to import needed materials. Also, English entrepreneurs were imaginative, creative, and willing to change, which resulted in one small innovation after another. Incremental change over time built the revolution that gave England the edge, then the dominant position. French culture, geography, and government centralization delayed French industrialization, but England's loss of entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking allowed Germany to catch up late in the 19th century.

This book, which has been in print continually since it was first published in 1969, is a magnificent economic history, so why is there a second edition? …

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