The momentum of the British industrial revolution arose mostly in regions poorly endowed by nature, badly located and considered backward and poor by contemporaries. Sidney Pollard examines the initially surprising contribution made by the population of these and other `marginal areas' (mountains, forests and marshes) to the economic development of Europe since the Middle Ages. He provides case studies of periods in which marginal areas took the lead in economic development, such as the Dutch economy in its Golden Age, and in the British industrial revolution. The traditional perception of the populations inhabiting these regions was that they were poor, backward, and intellectually inferior; but Sidney Pollard shows how they also had certain peculiar qualities which predisposed them to initiate progress. Healthy living, freedom, a martial spirit, and the hardiness to survive in harsh conditions enabled them to contribute a unique pioneering ability to pivotal economic periods; illustrating some of the effects of geography upon the development of societies.