宋代   Song China

Ronald A. Edwards (艾德榮)
Tamkang University (淡江大學)

Research Statement

I believe the current generation is in a position to discover the primary cause of the onset the Industrial Revolution.

The mainstream view that England is the only country worthy of study regarding the Industrial Revolution, or the onset of economic growth (i.e. considerable increases in long-run growth rates of per-capita income and population), has distracted us from a much more promising method – that of comparison.

Earlier documented cases of onsets of economic growth – Song China (960 – 1279), the Netherlands (1580 – 1815), and Tokugawa Japan (1603 – 1868) (and possibly others) exist. Respected experts in these cases have developed a consensus that each of these three episodes experienced the onset of economic growth. Some knowledgeable economic historians have conceded this without embracing it and continue their excessive focus on England while others deny that such episodes exist. These episodes are now well established. Skeptics who are not on board will eventually be convinced, at least in my view.

Outside of England, the most important episode of an onset of economic growth is arguably Song China. In the 11th century, China experienced considerable increases in per-capita iron output (perhaps a tripling), an increased pace of technological innovation, the unprecedented widespread use of paper, tea and other daily commodities by the masses and a doubling of its population. The Chinese in the mid-Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) constituted about a fifth of the world's population, as they do today.

Song China is too big to ignore.

My research seeks commonalities between four episodes of the onset of economic growth: England, Song China, the Netherlands and Tokugawa Japan. I focus on events leading up to their onset. Early indications suggest a simple, common primary cause.

It seems that this comparative approach to the study of the onset of economic growth may be making the dismal science a bit brighter.