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Why the industrial revolution was British: commerce, induced invention, and the scientific revolution



Britain had a unique wage and price structure in the eighteenth century, and that structure is a key to explaining the inventions of the industrial revolution. British wages were very high by international standards, and energy was very cheap. This configuration led British firms to invent technologies that substituted capital and energy for labour. High wages also increased the supply of technology by enabling British people to acquire education and training. Britain's wage and price structure was the result of the country's success in international trade, and that owed much to mercantilism and imperialism. When technology was first invented, it was only profitable to use it in Britain, but eventually it was improved enough that it became cost-effective abroad. When the ‘tipping point’ occurred, foreign countries adopted the technology in its most advanced form.