Gregory Clark's new book A Farewell to Alms is not the only recent take on the emergence of the industrial revolution. Dartmouth's Meir Kohn has a forthcoming work too. Titled The Origins of Western Economic Success: Commerce, Finance and Government in Pre-Industrial Europe, the book manuscript is available online. As Kohn explains in Chapter 1, his work has a Smithian focus on commerce and markets, seeing the creation and expansion of markets in pre-industrial Europe as the key to economic growth:
The can-opener in the Ricardian theory of economic growth is the market. The market is simply taken for granted: it plays no explicit role in the Ricardian theory. But in the real world, markets cannot be taken for granted. Contrary to the Ricardian view, it is not technological progress but rather the creation and expansion of markets that drives economic growth. Technological progress is a consequence, not a cause. It is a lack of well-functioning markets—not a lack of resources or of technology—that explains the stagnation of the less-developed world and the problems of the transition economies.
The economic success of the West is explained, not by its cultural superiority or by the wisdom of its governments, but by its greater success in developing markets. Of course, the obvious question is, Why do markets develop more successfully in one place rather than in another? Answering that question is a primary goal of this book.
This is a detailed and fascinating work, written in a clear prose. I look forward to its publication and the ensuing debate.