The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective

By Joel Mokyr | Go to book overview

2
The Fable of the Dead Horse; or,
the Industrial Revolution Revisited

David S. Landes

Now without intending to depreciate in any manner the heroic efforts of the French Revolution and the immense gratitude the world owes the great men of the Republic, we think that the relative position of France and England with regard to cosmopolitism is not at all justly delineated in the above sketch [by Louis Blanc]. We entirely deny the cosmopolitic character ascribed to France before the Revolution, and the times of Louis XI and Richelieu may serve as proofs. But what is it M. Blanc ascribes to France? That she could never make predominant any idea except it was to benefit the whole world. Well, we should think M. Louis Blanc could not show us any country in the world which could do otherwise than France is said to have done. Take England, for instance, which M. Blanc places in direct opposition to France. England invented the steam engine; England erected the railway—two things which we believe are worth a good many ideas. Well, did England invent them for herself or for the whole world? The French glory in spreading civilization everywhere, principally in Algiers.Well, who has spread civilization in America, in Asia, Africa and Australia, but England?

— Friedrich Engels
The Northern Star, XI, No. 530 ( 18-12- 1847)

When in teasing mood I sometimes suggest to my students that the beginning of the end of the Ancient World is to be found not in Alaric's capture of old Rome in AD 410, not in the Turkish sack of new Rome in 1453 nor, indeed, at any of the much canvassed dates in between, but in an event which occurred in England in the early eighteenth century, they tend to look blank baffled or bored according to temperament. Yet the case can be argued that the division between Ancient and Modern was marked in 1709 when at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, Abraham Darby first successfully smelted iron with coke, for it was this development which launched mankind, slowly at first, but with progressively increasing rapidity, into the totally new world of an expanding and innovatory technology and introduced into the human consciousness the wholly novel concept of self-sustaining growth, both technical and financial.

— Earl Donald C., On the Absence of the Railway Engine

What may well be the first use of the term " Industrial Revolution" dates from 1799, when a French envoy to Berlin with the German name of Otto wrote that his

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The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The British Industrial Revolution - An Economic Perspective *
  • Contents *
  • Tables and Figures *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • 1: Editor's Introduction *
  • 2: The Fable of the Dead Horse; Or, the Industrial Revolution Revisited *
  • 3: Reassessing the Industrial Revolution *
  • 4: Too Much Revolution *
  • 5: The Role of Education and Skill in the British Industrial Revolution *
  • Bibliography *
  • About the Book *
  • About the Contributors *
  • Index *
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