Was the Industrial Revolution an accident of history?

My comments last week yielded suggestions. One reader pointed to this David Landes article on the room for accident in economic history.

My weekend perusal of the towering-and-ever-growing “to read” pile of books on my desk yielded two books on why the industrial revolution could have and nearly did happen in China: Ken Pomeranz’s Great Divergence and Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules–for Now.

The first chapters of each are very good so far, though I am not sure if I buy the ideas yet. The Morris book is easily one of the most enjoyable economic history reads I have seen in some time, perhaps (apologies in advance, econ history friends) because he is a historian rather than an economic historian.