Economic Revolution: Song China & England

There is a new and lengthy paper (pdf) by Ronald A. Edwards on this topic.  It starts quite slow, becomes much more interesting, and even incorporates numerous Japanese sources.  It is worthwhile if read selectively, and with some knowledge of the relevant historical background.  It deals with the key question of why there wasn’t an industrial revolution in Song China, in the 10th century A.D. and afterwards.  Or was there?  Here is the abstract:

I claim that China during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) (Song China hereafter) experienced the onset of an Economic Revolution, preceding England’s by nearly a millennium. The concept of Economic Revolution is defined to include two types – one Premodern (non-science based) with a low growth rate of per capita product and one Modern (science-based) with a high growth rate of per capita product. It is argued that the Song China vs. England comparison is more relevant than other comparisons with England. Using both the Song China and England episodes, I introduce a new definition of the “onset of an Economic Revolution” that identifies preliminary social changes. I call this the Embryonic Stage and contend that it causes firm formation, household changes and an increase in the pace of technological innovation. I argue the Embryonic Stage more clearly identifies and dates the onset of an Economic Revolution. This has important implications for causal theories.

For the pointer I thank Daniel Houser.


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