Proposal preview

The historical dynamics of industrialization: A regional interpretation, ca. 1800-present

The Industrial Revolution that started in 18th century England, and subsequently spread as a slick of oil through many other countries, is arguably the most important turning point in world history. Changing health care, communication and even our world view, one of its most significant impacts was a rise of the general standard of the populations concerned.

Not surprisingly, this transition has attracted wide scholarly attention. Debates range on topics such as the Great Divergence (why Western Europe and parts of China drifted apart economically) (Allen et al 2011; Broadberry 2015), the role of human capital (Baten and van Zanden 2008), knowledge and capital accumulation (Mokyr 1979; Van Leeuwen and Foldvari 2013), and institutions (Hall and Soskice 2001). Yet, due to data limitations, these studies often focused on the national level, whereas the spread of industries has been predominantly regional. For instance, in England industries clustered in relatively small regions in the North – with the clustering of the textile industry in Lancashire probably being one of the most famous examples. The South of England remained predominantly agricultural. Likewise, today within China the Shanghai region belongs to the richest parts of the world with Gansu being one of the poorest.

To properly understand industrialization and its spread it is therefore necessary to look at the regional level. In this session we want to bring together scholars studying these processes of regional industrialization in Asia and Europe to gain a better understanding of the spread and dynamism of industrialization. Examples of questions that will be addressed in this session are as follows:
• What is the regional pattern of industrialization?
• Why were some regions more likely to industrialize than others (e.g. capital, transport, human capital, labour, raw materials)?
• How did regional industrialization change our picture of the Great Divergence, i.e. on industrial development in Asia versus Western Europe?

Papers are invited that contribute to these and related themes in the economic history of Europe and Asia for the period ca. 1800-present.

Corresponding Session Organisers:
– Dr. Alexandra M. de Pleijt, University of Oxford
– Dr. Bas van Leeuwen, International Institute for Social History

Paper presenter(s):
– Andrei Markevich (New Economic School, Russia), “Industrialisation in a backward economy: Russia in the 19th century”
– Zang, Zipeng (Utrecht University), Xuyi (Guangxi Normal University), Li Jieli (International Institute of Social History) and Bas van Leeuwen (International Institute for Social History), “Regional industrialization in China ca. 1900-present”
– M. Erdem Kabadayi (Koç University), “Long term regional dynamics of industrialization, from the late Ottoman Empire to the nation states in the Balkans and in Anatolia, 1850-1970”.
– Jean-Pascal Bassino (IAO, ENS Lyon, University of Lyon), Kyoji Fukao (Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University) and Tokihiko Settsu (Musashi University), “Regional patterns of Japanese industrialisation from ca. 1800 to 1985”
– Alexandra M. de Pleijt (University of Oxford), Chris Minns (London School of Economics) and Patrick Wallis (London School of Economics), “Technical Change and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from the Industrial Revolution”
– Robin Philips (International Institute for Social History), Peter Foldvari (Amsterdam School of Economics) and Bas van Leeuwen (International Institute for Social History), “Factors driving regional industrial growth in the Low Countries, ca. 1820 – present”

Expert commentator(s):
– Professor Stephen N. Broadberry, University of Oxford
– Dr. Debin Ma, London School of Economics


  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt, University of Oxford,, United Kingdom
  • Bas van Leeuwen, International Institute for Social History,, Netherlands

Session members

  • Andrei Markevich , New Economic School,
  • Erdem Kabadayi , Koç University,
  • Jean-Pascal Bassino, University of Lyon,
  • Robin Philips , International Institute for Social History,
  • Peter Foldvari, International Institute for Social History,
  • Zipeng Zhang, Utrecht University,
  • Xuyi , Guangxi Normal University,
  • Kyoji Fukao, Hitotsubashi University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Stephen N. Broadberry, University of Oxford,
  • Debin Ma, London School of Economics,