Did the Glorious Revolution Contribute to the Transport Revolution?

Did the Glorious Revolution Contribute to the Transport Revolution?

Dan Bogart  (Department of Economics UC Irvine)

Economic History Review, Vol.64 (2011)


The Glorious Revolution has been linked with Britain’s economic development in the eighteenth century. This paper argues that it contributed to the early transport revolution. First, it shows that the regulatory environment became more favorable for undertakers with their rights being better protected. Second it shows that investment in improving roads and rivers increased substantially in the mid-1690s shortly after the Glorious Revolution. Regression analysis and structural breaks tests confirm that there was a change in investment even after controlling for other determinants of investment. The results have implications for the debates on the role of political change in British economic growth.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 marked a key moment in British history. The overthrow of King James II by the invading army of William of Orange and the coronation of a new Protestant King represented a key change in ruling authority. According to some schools of thought the Glorious Revolution also contributed to broader economic and political change. One well- known view popularized by North and Weingast contends that the Glorious Revolution contributed to economic development by increasing the security of property rights and reducing rent-seeking. The North and Weingast thesis has generated extensive discussion and debate in the literature. A number of scholars express skepticism that the Revolutionary settlement made property rights more secure and fostered Britain’s economic growth. Some argue that the post- 1689 regime might have even hampered financial development and international trade.

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