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Since the inadequacies of the Industrial Revolution remain a key factor in most critiques of capitalism and individual liberty, Education and the Industrial Revolution makes an important contribution to a better understanding of the period. The book provides a challenge to the educational establishment because it contradicts the long-held view that the Industrial Revolution was a disaster and that only government intervention and 'compulsion' brought the joys of education to people. West's investigations unearthed a large and growing market for education going hand in hand with the rise of industrialism and occurring prior to government intervention. By taking on such issues as supposed educational deficiency, market provision, actual literacy rates, theories of educational reform in the nineteenth century, and the realities of educational intervention, West helps us come to a richer understanding of liberty -- one that is little-known today but every bit as relevant as the day it was written.
Edwin G. West is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Carleton University, Ottawa.