Economic growth and change in eighteenth-century Britain, both the expansion of pre-industrial commercial society and the industrial revolution itself, have been explored using a variety of approaches. This article highlights a relatively ignored aspect of the problem, arguing that the state, politics, and political economic ideology played a central role. In particular, the early eighteenth-century political victory of a version of political economy associated with the Whig party, which centred on manufacturing and consumption, was a prerequisite for the economic developments later in the century. The article begins by describing a political economy of manufacturing and its rival, a political economy of re-exporting associated with the Tory party. It then explains how and why a political economy of manufacturing became dominant, examining both political elites and ordinary voters and petitioners. The growth of manufacturing and consumption must be understood, therefore, as political as much as economic events.