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Most people who lived in the year 1800 were scarcely richer than people who lived in the year 100,000 B.C. Their diets were no better. They were no taller, and they did not live longer.
Then, sometime around 1800, economic growth took off — in Britain first, then elsewhere. How did this growth start? In his book “The Enlightened Economy,” Joel Mokyr of Northwestern University argues that the crucial change happened in people’s minds.