Half-a-century has passed since Ashton wrote his short yet finely detailed work on the industrial revolution in England. Subsequent decades have inevitably seen major change in the ways in which economic history is researched and written. The discovery of new source materials, more-intensive use of evidence, shifts in the interests of historians, and the employment of computers have stimulated much rewriting of the history of the industrial revolution. Progress has been made in our estimation of growth rates of national income, capital formation, industrial output and productivity. We know a great deal more about demographic change and the impact of industrialization upon society and culture: living standards, political ideas and beliefs, religion, family and personal life. We are also more likely today to place the history of British industrialization in a comparative and global context. Any reader steeped in the recent literature will certainly find parts of Ashton's analysis which are now outdated and even misleading; but the more surprising thing is that, after fifty years, specialists as well as students can still be stimulated by Ashton's account. One can appreciate the ways in which he anticipated many questions which have subsequently been debated, and benefit from a succinct analysis of major causal factors and social and cultural elements which is unclouded by more recent (not always productive) controversy.
Ashton was born in 1899, the third child of the manager of the Trustee Savings Bank in Ashton-Under-Lyne.1 He was based at____________________