As regular readers will know, my main thesis about the causes of Britain’s acceleration of innovation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is that its inventors did so much to evangelise for innovation, to spread it further. Innovation is a mentality, of constantly perfecting and optimising everything and anything around us, and it spreads from person to person. But there was nothing special about Britain in having people with the improving mentality. There was no uniquely British disposition, or national culture of innovation, whatever that is (bizarrely, I’m occasionally cited as saying as much). Far from it. A disproportionate number of the inventors of the period were immigrants, and I think the improving mentality arrived from abroad anyway, in the mid-sixteenth century. What made Britain special was that the improving mentality became especially viral there.
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