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The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209–2004

University of California, Davis

I use building workers’ wages for 1209–2004 and the skill premium to consider the causes and consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Real wages were trendless before 1800, as would be predicted for the Malthusian era. Comparing wages with population, however, suggests that the break from the technological stagnation of the Malthusian era came around 1640, long before the classic Industrial Revolution, and even before the arrival of modern democracy in 1689. Building wages also conflict with human capital interpretations of the Industrial Revolution, as modeled by Gary Becker, Kevin Murphy, and Robert Tamura; Oded Galor and David Weil; and Robert Lucas. Human capital accumulation began when the rewards for skills were unchanged and when fertility was increasing.