Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Brad DeLong agrees that David Landes still has a lock on the industrial revolution

The great economic historian David Landes died on August 17.  Aside from my admiration for his work, I also happened to know David, since he was the chair of the Social Studies program at Harvard during most of the time I taught there in the early 1980s. He was a real mensch.

A few days ago Brad DeLong marked the death of David Landes in a post on his blog ... by way of responding to a query I had recently e-mailed him about the historiography and historical sociology of the industrial revolution.  (By pure coincidence, I sent my message to Brad the same day that Landes died.)

—Jeff Weintraub

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
August 25, 2013
We Economic Historians All Mourn That David Landes Has Died

And yet his work remains. Jeff Weintraub asks a question:
Let's imagine that one wants to give students (or any other set of non-expert readers) a sweeping and illuminating introductory overview on the industrial revolution—what it was about, how & why it marked a major break in human history, why it was a socio-economic and socio-political transformation as well as a purely technological one, along with some consideration of the major controversies about its nature & causes & consequences—that is brief & compact, but also intellectually substantial & theoretically sophisticated, not to mention well written. As far as I can tell, the best available single piece of this sort is still David Landes's 39-page "Introduction" to The Unbound Prometheus. At least, I'm not aware of a superior substitute that meets all those criteria….  Am I wrong? ....
I am not aware of a superior substitute either. Is anybody?

Here is a taste: the first section of David's introductory chapter:

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