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  • Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development
  • Andre Gunder Frank
Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development. By Joseph E. Inikori. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 576 pp. $85.00 (cloth); $32.99 (paper).

The author alleges in his preface and again in his introduction "that this book is the first lengthy study of the role of international trade in the industrialization process in England." It is difficult, if not impossible, to see why the author insists on this claim, for ample evidence disconfirms it on at least two major grounds. One is in the author's own lengthy and careful 66-page chapter 3 review of the "Historiography of the First Industrial Revolution." He includes over ten pages devoted exclusively to authors and their writings on international trade in general and the "commercial revolution" in particular, although he himself now also favors the revisionist evolutionary view. The other reason is that this book itself does not do what the author claims. Although he does deal with international trade, as we will observe below, the author himself notes that this trade is limited to what he calls the "Atlantic Economy." The author does, in passing, cite recent "California school" work by Wong, Pomeranz, and even the present author on the essential role of Asia and its international trade with Britain in the industrialization of the latter, which was part and parcel of a worldwide international trade and the underlying division of labor. Yet, Inikori totally leaves out of account any and all of that world's major participation in international trade and the industrialization in England (there would have been none without India), and therefore, also of all "international trade" in general.

So Inikori makes the effort to review the important previous literature, and of course, to find it wanting. But he also importantly observes [End Page 232] that the theories that became dominant at any particular time were derived from the circumstances of that time and changed when the latter did, but not because the evidence changed. He distinguishes between what we may call supply side and demand side explanations by others, though he himself fuses both. Classical political economy was supply side, concerned with inputs and their combination. In this regard, Inikori himself insists "the evidence is thus clear that technological development was driven by overseas trade and not the other way around" (p. 451). Already Toynbee (the uncle), who invented the term "industrial revolution" in the first place, turned to demand side explanations, and particularly overseas demand-driven developments. These became dominant from right (Mantoux) to left (Hobson) in the abovementioned Commercial Revolution school. After World War II, almost everybody—also from Ashton and Rostow on the right to Brenner on the left and Mokyr in the center, in two senses of the word—went over to supply side explanations of input productivity from agriculture, industry itself, and services. So the theorizing had come full circle. But then the demand side came back, and Inikori observes that, for instance, Patrick O'Brien even changed his own mind between 1982 (in an article specifically meant to shoot down Gunder Frank) and 1991, and I might observe, even more so since then.

Inikori makes a, to me, less than convincing argument as to why the review of the literature in chapter 3 has to come after, rather than before, his long chapter 2, "The English Economy in the Longue Durée" from 1086 to 1850, though most of it is devoted to the last of those centuries. Inikori chose the closing date on the more than dubious ground that by then, England's industrial revolution was successfully completed, and England had become "the workshop of the world." Neither claim is true. In 1850, there were still three times as many workers in agriculture as in manufacturing in Britain (and even more in England!), so that the real industrialization was still to come, but less in Britain than in Germany and the United States. Britain also had a growing export deficit/import surplus almost every year from 1816 to 1913, because its...


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pp. 232-235
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