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Book on the history of German industrialization receives excellent review

24 September 2021 - Albrecht Ritschl, Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics, recently reviewed the new book of Richard Tilly and Michael Kopsidis (IAMO) “From Old Regime to Industrial State: A History of German Industrialization from the Eighteenth Century to World War I” (University of Chicago Press: 2020) in the internationally renowned Journal of Economic Literature.

According to Ritschl Tilly and Kopsidis provide a synopsis of recent research on nineteenth century growth in Germany. For him the book “is an invaluable source of inspiration for everyone seeking to update themselves on Germany’s industrialization and the current state of research”. Particularly praised are the sections on agriculture, cottage industry and the “careful presentation of various regional and, at times, even local case studies” concentrating on the period 1700-1850.

The book presents a review of existing interpretations of the belated German take-off to sustained growth around 1850 concentrating on technological and institutional explanations. For the reviewer, the institutional explanatory approach presented by the two authors to explain the strongly differing growth experiences of German states stands out the most. According to Ritschl almost in passing Tilly and Kopsidis present a convincing perspective based on Mancur Olson to explain the Prussian success and the lagging behind namely of the southern German states. Prussia’s rise to the leading political and economic power was driven by the exogenous destruction of rent-seeking coalitions by an authoritarian bureaucracy aiming at establishing the institutional framework of a market economy against the will of most segments of the society. In contrast, wider political participation in the Southern German states enabled local rent seeking coalitions to slow down structural change.

Review in Journal of Economic Literature:


Tilly, Richard H.; Kopsidis, Michael (2020) From Old Regime to Industrial State: A History of German Industrialization from the Eighteenth Century to World War I (Markets and Governments in Economic History). University of Chicago Press.