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Path Dependency, or Why Britain Became an Industrialized and Urbanized Economy Long before France

Patrick Karl O'Brien
The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 49, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 213-249
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Economic History Society
DOI: 10.2307/2597914
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2597914
Page Count: 37
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Path Dependency, or Why Britain Became an Industrialized and Urbanized Economy Long before France
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Abstract

Before the late twentieth century France remained less industrialized and urbanized than Britain. To explain the persistence of this familiar difference, it is necessary to account for the contrasting levels of support that the agricultures of the two economies lent to structural change. This article challenges neo-classical approaches by adopting a Braudelian approach in order to expose the geographical, political, and institutional constraints operating upon responses of French agriculture to market forces. Path dependency (i.e. the legacies of political history and natural endowments) explains why the British model of industrialization was in large part, in many regions and for centuries, irrelevant to explanations for the supposed retardation of the French economy.

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