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Knick Harley

Knick Harley

Emeritus Fellow, St Antony's College, University of Oxford


Knick Harley is a retired Professor of Economic History and Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College of University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. His research has concentrated on the emergence of modern economic growth in the Atlantic Economy since the seventeenth century.

His early research focused on the process by which technological change in steam power and metallurgy transformed ocean shipping during the late nineteenth century. This led to exploration of falling transportation costs and their impact on the international economy. This involved study of the nature and impact of transportation technology more generally. He published several well-regarded articles on the expansion of the North American frontier.

Beginning in the 1980s his research broadened to include study of the British Industrial Revolution and the spread on industrialization to the United States. His paper “British Industrialization before 1841” won the Arthur H. Cole Prize for the outstanding article in the Journal of Economic History in 1982. He subsequently has published a number of articles (many of them in collaboration with Professor Nicholas Crafts) looking at Britain in a general equilibrium context and exploring the nature of change in the cotton textile industry in detail. These papers served to establish the Craft-Harley view (and particularly the article “Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view” in the 1992 Economic History Review) that demonstrated that aggregate growth during the Industrial Revolution was significantly slower than previously thought. This research also emphasized the importance of international trade in the growth of British industry.

Many of his recent publications have attempted to synthesize the current state of understanding on long term growth in the developed economies. He contributed the chapter “British and European Industrialization”  in Larry Neal and Jeffrey G. Williamson, eds., The Cambridge History of Capitalism, Volume 1, The Rise of Capitalism: From Ancient Origins to 1848 (Cambridge, 2014). In addition he contributed the chapter, “The legacy of an early start” in Roderick Floud, Jane Humphries and Paul Johnson, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain: Volume II. 1870 to the Present (Cambridge, 2014).

Professor Harley served as co-editor of the Journal of Economic History from 2002 to 2006. He has served on the editorial boards of the European Review of Economic History and Explorations in Economic History.