Using textual analysis of 173,031 works printed in England between 1500 and 1900, we test whether British culture evolved to manifest a heightened belief in progress associated with science and industry. Our analysis yields three main findings. First, there was a separation in the language of science and religion beginning in the 17th century. Second, scientific volumes became more progress-oriented during the Enlightenment. Third, industrial works—especially those at the science-political economy nexus—were more progress-oriented beginning in the 17th century. It was therefore the more pragmatic, industrial works which reflected the cultural values cited as important for Britain’s takeoff.
Almelhem, A., Iyigun, M., Kennedy, A., & Rubin, J. (2023). Enlightenment ideals and belief in progress in the run-up to the Industrial Revolution: A textual analysis. ESI Working Paper 23-13. https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/393/