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The Industrial Revolution and globalization: A discussion of Patrick O’Brien’s contribution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2021

Joseph E. Inikori*
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA


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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Patrick O’Brien, ‘Was the British Industrial Revolution a Conjuncture in Global Economic History?’, Journal of Global History (forthcoming). Here are more examples: Patrick Karl O’Brien, ‘Contrasting Cosmographies for the Development of Science in Pre-Industrial Europe and Late Imperial China: A Bibliographical Survey’, Vieteljahrschrift Für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 108 (2021/2): 162–89 (Franz Steiner Verlag, Articles, VSWG); Patrick K. O’Brien, ‘Mercantilism and Imperialism in the Rise and Decline of the Dutch and British Economies, 1585–1815’, De Economist 148, no. 4 (2000): 471–501. I use the latter in a mixed course of undergraduate and graduate students; to help them follow the political history, I usually give them xerox copies of British History Rulers, which shows Roman Britain, 43–450 AD, The Coming of the English, 450–613, Division into Kingdoms, 613–1017, Danish Rule, 1017–1066, and all the monarchs, from William I (1066) to Elizabeth II (1952, the current monarch).

2 For a list of Patrick O’Brien’s publications, see Joseph E. Inikori (ed.), British Imperialism and Globalization, c. 1650–1960: Essays in Honour of Patrick O’Brien (Woodridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2022).

3 The foundation for this defining feature was created early during his postgraduate studies at Nuffield College, Oxford University, 1958–1960: ‘Government Revenue, 1793–1815: A Study of Fiscal and Financial Policy in the Wars against France’, D.Phil. (Oxon) Thesis, 1960; Patrick K. O’Brien, ‘Afterword: Reflections on fiscal foundations and contexts for the formation of economically effective Eurasian states from the rise of Venice to the Opium War’, in Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla and Patrick K. O’Brien (eds.) with Francisco Comin Comin, The Rise of Fiscal States: A Global History, 1500-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 442–53.

4 Patrick K. O’Brien, ‘Mercantilism and Imperialism in the Rise and Decline of the Dutch and British Economies, 1585–1815’, De Economist 148, no. 4 (2000): 469–501; Patrick K. O’Brien, ‘Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy, 1688-1989’, New Left Review, no. 238 (1999): 48–80. The current article focuses largely on the period, 1650–1846, the period of the mercantilist empire (the Atlantic empire) as distinct from the free trade empire, what O’Brien calls ‘liberal imperialism’.

5 O’Brien, ‘Mercantilism and Imperialism’, 469.

6 O’Brien, ‘Mercantilism and Imperialism’, 490–4.

7 Ralph Davis, ‘English Foreign Trade, 1660–1700’, Economic History Review, New Series, 7, no. 2 (1954), 150–66; Ralph Davis, ‘English Foreign Trade, 1700–1774’, Economic History Review, New Series, 15, no. 2 (1962): 285–303.

8 O’Brien was once asked to give one word that explains the origin of the Industrial Revolution. Without hesitation, he said, ‘navy’ (Gareth Austin, oral information.)

9 O’Brien, ‘Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy’, 53–4.

10 O’Brien, ‘Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy’, 54.

11 Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole, British Economic Growth, 1688–1959 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962).

12 O’Brien, ‘Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy’, 54–5.

13 Joseph E. Inikori, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Atlantic Perspective: County History and National History’, in The Legacy of Eric Williams: Caribbean Scholar and Statesman ed. Colin A. Palmer (Kingston, Jamaica: The University of the West Indies Press, 2015), 224.

14 Thomas W. Merrick and Douglas H. Graham, Population and Economic Development in Brazil, 1800 to the Present (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 12.

15 Joseph E. Inikori, Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 210–4.

16 For the empirical and analytical details, see Inikori, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Atlantic Perspective’.

17 Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: Europe, China, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

18 Inikori, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Atlantic Perspective’, 254–5.

19 Edward Miller, ‘The Occupation of the Land: Yorkshire and Lancashire’, in The Agrarian History of England and Wales: Volume III, 1348–1500, ed. Edward Miller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); R. G. Wilson, ‘The Supremacy of the Yorkshire Cloth Industry in the Eighteenth Century’, in Textile History and Economic History: Essays in Honour of Miss Julia de Lacy Mann, eds. N. B. Hart and K. G. Ponting (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1973), 135; John K. Walton, Lancashire: A Social History, 1558–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987); John K. Walton, ‘Proto-Industrialisation and the First Industrial Revolution: The Case of Lancashire’, in Regions and Industries: A Perspective on the Industrial Revolution in Britain, ed. Pat Hudson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Marie B. Rowlands, ‘Continuity and change in An Industrialising Society: The Case of the West Midlands Industries’, in Regions and Industries, ed. Hudson.

20 Walton’s point that the industrialization process in Lancashire was conditioned by ‘the nature of economy and society at the beginning of the eighteenth century’ is representative of the views of the historians of these counties: Walton, Lancashire, 66–7.

21 Here are two sources for these views that are generally representative of the literature in question: Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke and Jeffrey Gale Williamson, ‘Introduction’, in The Spread of Modern Industry to the Periphery since 1871, eds. Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke and Jeffrey Gale Williamson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 4–5; Gareth Austin and Kaoru Sugihara, ‘Introduction’, in Labour-Intensive Industrialization in Global History, eds. Gareth Austin and Kaoru Sugihara (New York: Routledge, 2013), 1.

22 Robert C. Allen, ‘Why the Industrial Revolution was British: Commerce, Induced Invention, and the Scientific Revolution’, Economic History Review, 64, no. 2 (2011): 357; see also Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 236–7.

23 O’Brien, ‘Mercantilism and Imperialism’, 469–501; O’Brien, ‘Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy’, 48–80.

24 Inikori, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Atlantic Perspective’, 243–6; Inikori, Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England, 40–88.

25 For more details, see Inikori, ‘The Industrial Revolution in Atlantic Perspective’; also, Joseph E. Inikori, ‘Trans-Atlantic Trade in African Captives and the Industrial Revolution’, Oxford Encyclopedia of African History (forthcoming).

26 Inikori, Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England, Table 9.9, 448.

27 For the history of the Royal Navy after the Civil War, see Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550–1653 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).

28 Kevin H. O’Rourke and Jeffrey G. Williamson, Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999); Inikori, ‘Africa and the Globalization Process’.

29 Joseph E. Inikori, ‘Atlantic Slavery and the Rise of the Capitalist Global Economy’, Current Anthropology, 61, Suppl. 22 (October 2020): S168–S169.

30 For ease of comprehension, the terms, f.o.b. (free on board) and c.i.f. (cost, insurance, freight), generally used in international trade, may be clarified. The former refers to the total cost of export goods up to their being loaded on board the export ship and the latter is the addition of insurance and shipping cost to the former; in other words, f.o.b.= c. in c.i.f.

31 Joseph E. Inikori, ‘British Imperialism and Globalization: British West Africa, 1821–1900’, in British Imperialism and Globalization, ed. Inikori, 97–133. The evidence shows the British government incurred much financial cost in promoting commodity export production in West Africa and left the colonies open to the merchants and shippers of other European nations and the Americas, especially, Germany. O’Brien believes this policy was naïve and myopic.