The Economic History Review

Understanding productivity growth in the industrial revolution

Volume 74 Issue 2
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Pages: 309-338Authors: Nicholas Crafts
Published online: May 1, 2021DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13051

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Recent research relating to productivity growth during the British industrial revolution is reviewed. This confirms that there was a gradual acceleration rather than a ‘take-off’. The explanation for the speeding-up of technological progress remains controversial but the evidence base has improved considerably. In the face of a surge in population growth, slow growth of real wages during the industrial revolution may be seen as a good outcome which was underpinned by improved growth potential. Slow total factor productivity growth from the 1870s suggests that British technological capabilities at the end of the industrial revolution were still quite limited.