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French revolution or industrial revolution? A note on the contrasting experiences of England and France up to 1800

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  • Paul R. Sharp

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, building 26, 1353 Copenhagen, Denmark)

  • Jacob L. Weisdorf

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Department of Economic and Social History, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.)

Abstract

At the end of the eighteenth century, England and France both underwent revolutions: France the French Revolution, England the industrial revolution. This note sheds new light on these contrasting experiences in the histories of England and France by looking at the evolution of real consumer prices in London and Paris in the centuries leading up to 1800. Whilst in London, building workers were facing low and stable consumer prices over the period, leaving plenty of scope for a demand-driven consumer revolution (in particular after 1650), their Parisian counterparts had to engage in a year-long grind to maintain a decent living, and often had to cut consumption to make ends meet. The exercise conducted in the present paper gives a quantitative and economic underpinning to the notion that the French revolution did not arise out of nowhere, but rather had its roots in centuries of hardship amongst working class people as they struggled to make a living.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC) in its journal Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History.

Volume (Year): 6 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 79-88

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Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:6:y:2012:i:1:p:79-88

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Keywords: Consumer revolution; French revolution; Great divergence; Industrious revolution; Industrial revolution; Labour input;

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  1. Robert C. Allen & Jacob Louis Weisdorf, 2010. "Was there an ‘Industrious Revolution’ before the Industrial Revolution? An Empirical Exercise for England, c. 1300-1830," Discussion Papers 10-14, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Grantham, George, 1997. "The French cliometric revolution: A survey of cliometric contributions to French economic history," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(03), pages 353-405, December.
  3. Hoffman, Philip T., 1991. "Land Rents and Agricultural Productivity: The Paris Basin, 1450-1789," Working Papers 752, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Jack A. Goldstone, 2007. "Jack Goldstone on Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(3), pages 207-225, July.
  5. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  6. Clark, Gregory & Werf, Ysbrand Van Der, 1998. "Work in Progress? The Industrious Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 830-843, September.
  7. Vries,Jan de, 2008. "The Industrious Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521719254.
  8. Nico Voigtländer & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2006. "Why England? Demographic factors, structural change and physical capital accumulation during the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 319-361, December.
  9. Vries,Jan de, 2008. "The Industrious Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521895026.
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