1. Exquisite Tweets from @DuncanWeldon

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    Unless you’re me... Economic history is rarely that exciting.
    But right now it really is. And the wonders of twitter and the internet mean we can watch a debate play out in real time.
    So please excuse a mini thread (especially from an interested amateur rather than a participant)

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Right now, there’s a very active debate on the origins of industrial revolution.
    Why should we care? Firstly because the IR was probably “the key event” in human history.
    It’s when - for many - life stopped being nasty, brutish and short.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    And even leaving that aside - understanding why countries have successfully industrialised in the past has important lessons for many parts of the world today.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Amongst economists & economic historians, the leading theory (although by far from the only one!) as to why the IR happened when (and crucially *where* ) it did has been Bob Allen’s High Wage Economy (HWE) theory. The book version is here: amazon.co.uk/Industrial-Rev…

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    The one tweet version: “Britain had unusually high wages compared to much of Europe (a legacy of more colonial trade) and easy access to coal. High wages and cheap energy made the introduction of labour saving technology profitable in Britain when it wouldn’t have been elsewhere”

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    The other current leading argument is from Mokyr and focus more on culture. The book version of that is here press.princeton.edu/titles/10835.h…
    But I highly recommend @de1ong’s review here for an introduction: nature.com/articles/53845…

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Even those who haven’t accepted Allen’s theory entirely have seen it as important. Nick Crafts has provided one version of an Allen/Mokyr synthesis.
    wrap.warwick.ac.uk/44710/1/WRAP_C…
    Perhaps Allen explains the demand for innovation & Mokyr it’s supply?

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    But in the past couple of weeks a couple of very important papers have been published challenging the very idea that British (or specially English) wages were actually that high.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Both - (one by focussing on woman and children) and one by reexamining the historical evidence question how high British wages actually were. Eg, from the first paper.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Allen has already replied - is doubling down. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.111…

    But there are now serious questions of the data. Is cheap coal alone enough?

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Finally, it’s worth a read of @pseudoerasmus’s earlier post on this debate google.co.uk/amp/s/pseudoer… and in general he is the account to follow as this debate plays out.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon

    Appols. No more multi tweet academic economic history threads for a while. But it’s fascinating to be able watch this debate in real time rather than waiting months for each paper/reply.

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    DuncanWeldon

    Duncan Weldon