*The Enlightened Economy*

The subtitle is An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850 and the author is Joel Mokyr.  This is now the most comprehensive and indeed the currently definitive history of the British Industrial Revolution.  Here is a short excerpt:

Despite the protestations of some scholars who call it "a misnomer," the idea of the Industrial Revolution will remain an essential concept in the economic history of Britain and the world.  It was, in a narrow sense, neither exclusively industrial nor much of a revolution.  But it remains in many ways the opening act of the still-developing drama of modern economic growth coupled to far-reaching change in society.

The main thesis (apart from the comprehensive coverage) is that ideas were of the central importance for the British take-off.  Here is the book's website.  Here is a blog review.  I would not describe the book as "fun" but it is clearly written and does not require the knowledge of a specialist.

There is another new book on the Industrial Revolution, namely Robert C. Allen's The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective.  It's all about how the British had high wages and cheap energy, a kind of Heckscher-Ohlin approach to why we're not eating mud cakes.  It's good enough on its own terms, but it's a) question-begging in parts, and b) startling what a small role ideas play in the basic story.  Indirectly, this book is proof that Mokyr's contribution is an important one.


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