Cultural Determinants and Consequences of the Industrial Revolution

Name of applicant

Anne Sofie Beck Knudsen


DKK 485,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


Why did the Industrial Revolution take place in Europe and not in other places of the world? Prominent scholars argue that Europe benefitted from an individualistic way of thinking. Individualistic cultures emphasize individual autonomy and achievement, which are important ingredients in the process of innovation. So far, nobody has been able to validate this theory, and this is mainly due to the lack of empirical data. In this project, I will build a database of historical innovation, industrialization, and individualism in Europe. With this data, I will examine the cultural drivers of the Industrial Revolution by looking at the characteristics of people that took direct part in it. I will also study the consequences of industrialization on the evolution of individualistic cultural norms.


The Industrial Revolution is one of the most widely studied events in economics. Research has uncovered many of the underlying demographic, economic, and political processes. Yet, these circumstances do not fully explain why this scale of industrialization took place in Europe and not in other regions of the world. Understanding the causes of the Industrial Revolution is important, because countries that industrialized early are richer today, and because large parts of the developing world have yet to experience effective industrialization.


To study the cultural causes and consequences of the Industrial Revolution, I will focus on the United Kingdom and Scandinavia because these countries inhabited both first-movers and adopters of early technology. Due to the high quality of available data I can thus follow the spread of industrialization over a relatively narrow geographical area. This allows me to draw conclusions on cultural determinants and effects that are very precise. I will make use of various historical data sources in this project. This includes historical population censuses and church records that describe the lives of individuals that lived during this time period in the 18th and 19th century. I will construct cultural indicators based on the content of their first names and writings in historical newspapers.

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