宋代   Song China

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

Research Statement

For the first time, economists and social scientists are poised to discover the primary cause of the onset the Industrial Revolution. Currently, no consensus exists on this important question but recent research on other countries and eras, based on different data sources, now allows substantive, detailed comparisons. I believe the comparative approach will allow us to discover the primary cause of the onset of England’s Industrial Revolution and fundamentally change our view in the social sciences.

Besides the onset of England’s Industrial Revolution, other cases exist. Arguably, Song China (960 – 1279) is the most notable other case of the onset of economic growth, i.e. considerable increases in both per-person income and population long-run growth rates. The case of Song China has been underemphasized due in part to a preoccupation with England’s case. This focus has distracted us from a much more promising method – that of comparison.

There is a strong consensus in Chinese historiography that Song China experienced economic growth. Different views regarding the magnitude of this growth exist, but there is widespread agreement on this issue. In the 11th century, China experienced considerable increases in per-person iron output (perhaps a tripling), an increased pace of technological innovation, the unprecedented and widespread use of paper, tea and other daily commodities by the masses and a doubling of the population. The Chinese in the mid-Song Dynasty constituted about a fifth of the world’s population, as they do today.

Song China is too big to ignore.

My comparative research seeks commonalities in the onset of economic growth in the England and Song China cases. 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..