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The Atlantic slave system and skills in industrialising Britain

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This talk responds to Joel Mokyr’s recent work emphasising supply side explanations for the unique mechanical competencies which characterised industrialising Britain. Mokyr pays little attention to the demand side of the human capital market and is especially dismissive of the view that the rise of the Atlantic slave system might have played a critical role. Using data on trade and patents, this paper argues, on the contrary, that overseas expansion, powered by enslaved labour, transformed the market for knowledge and skills and played a very critical role in shaping Britain’s industrial revolution.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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