It would seem to me that the “economic-historical” thesis that the Industrial Revolution occurred because of a change in human evolution could be defeated merely by arguing that a change in ideas occurred earlier. “The Wealth of Nations” was published in 1776; a certain country that was to be a “commercial republic” declared itself independent in the same year; material comfort as a goal for knowledge is advanced at least as early as Descartes (1641) and before him Francis Bacon, but the key ideas are definitely in Machiavelli (c. 1500). Wouldn’t it be just a bit easier, instead of compiling a lot of speculative data on how people ate in the Middle Ages, or trying to deduce how many kids rich people had, to say that a change in ideas created the Industrial Revolution, as opposed to a change in the human genome?
I’ve gotta be missing something. This is just way too easy.