The West Midlands

AND THE INDUSTRIAL ENLIGHTENMENT

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What was special about the West Midlands during the Enlightenment?

Traditional views of the Enlightenment have ignored the English contribution and the significance of the West Midlands in particular. New research shows the importance of the region as a centre for the Industrial Enlightenment where scientific thinking was applied to the real world.

Industrial Enlightenment is a term which historians use when trying to explain the progress of the countries of Western Europe towards modernity. It acknowledges the role played by science and technology, the build-up of useful knowledge and its application to wealth-generating processes in creating the world as we know it today. Although the chronology of Industrial Enlightenment varied from country to country, researchers broadly agree that the preconditions for the West’s great acceleration were put in place in the course of the eighteenth century.

The economic historian Joel Mokyr has done most to convert the notion of Industrial Enlightenment into an effective tool for historical understanding. In his two books The Gifts of Athena and The Enlightened Economy he explains how he believes the ‘eighteenth-century knowledge economy’ helped to bring into being a modern, technologically literate society.

KEYWORDS: Enlightenment, Science, Industry, 18th Century

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Industry Enlightenment

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