The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with Max Hartwell

One of the foremost historians of the Industrial Revolution discusses what really happened to the quality of life and standard of living for those who lived through the industrialization of the West.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

Below are some prompts for further conversation.

by Audrey F. Sullivan

5:24 Key Influences

I-What part of his life does Hartwell describe as being influential on his world views, especially his economic views?

II- What are some of the contributions of British colonialism in Australia that Hartwell cites as unique to Australia compared to other British controlled colonies in Asia?

11:23 Early Research

III- Hartwell completed his master’s thesis at the University of Sydney which resulted in the publication of his first book, The Economic Development of van Diemen’s Land (1954). From the quote he reads from this book, what does Hartwell say about the influence of British imperialism in Australia? Does he still hold the same views he had when the book was first published?

IV- Hartwell’s PhD research revolved around what industry? Why did he choose this industry? What topic did this research prompt Hartwell to look more deeply into?

16:34 Establishing a classical liberal point of view

V- What were the three widely held beliefs in England that Hartwell challenged during his time at Oxford?

VI- What economic movement did the three ideologies mentioned above stem from? VII- What does Hartwell think is the one of the most promising aspects of modern economics?

VIII- In relation to Hartwell’s research on the standard of living of trade workers, what influence does he believe that trade unions and economic growth have on the increase in the standard of living?

22:19 Differing Views

IX- O’Brien, once a student of Hartwell’s, holds different views on how the industrial revolution in Britain is perceived. What country does O’Brien argue as being the first to experience an industrial revolution? What is Hartwell’s counter argument to this point?

X- What two factors of English society leading up to the Industrial Revolution were conducive to inventions of the Industrial Revolution?

XI- Continuing with Hartwell’s discussion on invention, what else does he suggest influences the possibility of invention increasing? What aspect of the production process inspired invention?

XII- O’Brien brings up the work of Jan de Vries who argues that the Dutch were the first to establish a modern economy. What differences does Hartwell point out between the economy of the Dutch and the Industrial Revolution in Britain?

27:26 Why was Great Britain the first to industrialize?

XIII- What was the economic system in Great Britain prior to the Industrial Revolution?

XIV- What differences in government and common law between France and Britain can be early contributions to Great Britain’s industrialization?

XV- What does Hartwell say is the difference between starting an enterprise in 1600 England vs 1775 England? Why does this matter in the conversation regarding the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain?

XVI- O’Brien points out that ‘industrialization’ is not necessarily the essence of the Industrial Revolution. What does O’Brien suggest is another, possibly more important factor of the Industrial Revolution?

XVII- Hartwell brings up the point of view of Adam Smith regarding the importance of institutions in determining the possibility of industrialization. Try to summarize his explanation of Adam Smith’s opinion on institutions and industrialization.

32:26 Historical Perspectives on the Industrial Revolution

XVIII- In addition to laissez-faire economic policies, what are three other factors that economic historians consider when explaining the success of the Industrial Revolution?

XIX- How do Hartwell and O’Brien differ in their opinions of the influence of the Napoleonic Wars in terms of a response to Britain’s industrialization and the slower industrialization of mainland Europe?

XX- What are O’Brien’s criticisms to British exceptionalism regarding the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith, and the growth of capitalism? Hartwell pushes against the use of the term ‘exceptionalism.’ How does he explain the uniqueness of Britain’s situation leading up to the Industrial Revolution without it being considered ‘exceptionalism?’

37:33 Conducive Elements of English Society

XXI- Hartwell discusses the importance in pushing back against the idea that only one key industry started the Industrial Revolution. What type of growth does he suggest as being present that is not conducive to the theory that one key industry spurred the Industrial Revolution?

XXII- What does Hartwell consider to be a platform for the implementation of capitalism in Britain and therefore the Industrial Revolution?

XXIII- What is an important political aspect of Britain during the 19th century which contributes to political freedom during the Industrial Revolution?

50:11 Society and Industrialization

XXIV- What does Hartwell suggest about the social aspect of factory life during the Industrial Revolution? What was the relationship like between employers and employees and how does Hartwell explain this relationship?

51:46 The Mont Pelerin Society

XXV- Why was the establishment of the Mont Pelerin Society an addition to the classical liberal point of view? During what decades was the Mont Pelerin Society at its height?

XXVI- What are the main aspects of classical liberalism as defined by Hartwell?

XXVII- Hartwell uses the term ‘compulsory consumption.’ Describe what he means and the context which he is using the term.

The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with Max Hartwell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).

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