Preindustrial Patterns of Growth: Why did the industrial revolution take place in Britain rather than in Morocco?


Some five centuries ago, many parts of the world had almost similar levels of economic activities and wealth. Since the Industrial Revolution which started in Britain, roughly between mid-18th and mid-19th centuries, the gap between poor and rich parts of the world did not stop to grow.


The event of increasing economic gap between certain parts of the world (Britain) and others (Morocco) is often referred to, in the literature, as the Great Divergence. Until the end of 11th century, the Islamic world (and China) were similar or even more developed than Europe[1]. The divergence emerged only between the period of the explorations of the New World (called mercantilism), and the Industrial Revolution. For instance, before this period China and India (25%) were big producers with 33% and 25% of the world production, respectively. After this period their production dropped to only 1–4% whereas Britain went from 2% to 23%[2]. Trying to explain the preconditions for this shift could give some answers to our original question.

Comparison between certain advanced civilizations in terms of factors that affect economic development [1].

Discussion and conclusions

Although common between the two parts, the Agricultural Revolution played an important role in creating and promoting an early division of labor, not necessarily within agriculture. This played an important role in the Industrial Revolution.

Adult literacy between 16th and 19th century [2].
Price of energy in the 18th century [2].


[1] Vera Zamagni, An economic history of Europe since 1700 (2017, Agenda publishing).

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