[UCP Books]: The Institutional Revolution


“I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent book.”

Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

“Douglas W. Allen has written a brilliant and challenging book that puts the measurement problem in the foreground to convincingly explain the logic of premodern institutions—institutions that the typical modern person, until reading Allen, views as the embodiment of chaos, inefficiency, corruption, and ineptitude. The Institutional Revolution contains a wealth of historical information that anyone with an interest in history will find interesting and often delightful.”

Thráinn Eggertsson, New York University


The Institutional Revolution

Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World
Douglas W. Allen

Publication Date: December 07, 2011 $30.00 • £19.50
International publication date: January 09, 2012 978-0-226-01474-6 (cloth)


From the invention of the steam engine to the birth of the modern factory, we’re all aware of the sweeping changes that characterized the Industrial Revolution and the profound effects they had on conditions throughout Europe, North America, and eventually much of the world. But in The Institutional Revolution, Douglas W. Allen offers a thought-provoking account of another, quieter revolution that took place at the end of the eighteenth century and allowed for the full exploitation of these innovations. Fundamental to this shift were dramatic changes in institutions, or the rules that govern society, which reflected significant improvements in the ability to measure performance—whether of government officials, laborers, or naval officers—thereby reducing the role of nature and the amount of variance in daily affairs. Along the way, Allen provides readers with a fascinating explanation of the critical roles played by seemingly bizarre institutions, from dueling to the purchase of one’s rank in the British Army.

Engagingly written, The Institutional Revolution traces the dramatic shift from premodern institutions based on patronage, purchase, and personal ties toward modern institutions based on standardization, merit, and wage labor—a shift which was crucial to the explosive economic growth of the Industrial Revolution.


Douglas W. Allen is the Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is the author of The Nature of the Farm: Contracts, Risk, and Organization in Agriculture.

Please contact Melinda Kennedy at mkennedy1@press.uchicago.edu or (773) 702-2945 for more information.


Looking for a book published by a scholarly press?
Search our repository of 42,000 academic and university press titles to see if we can point you to the book you need. Read More