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Was there an ‘industrious revolution’ before the industrial revolution? An empirical exercise for England, c. 1300–1830

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  • R. C. ALLEN
  • J. L. WEISDORF

Abstract

It is conventionally assumed that the pre-modern working year was fixed and that consumption varied with changes in wages and prices. This is challenged by the twin theories of the ‘industrious’ revolution and the consumer revolution, positing a longer working year as people earned surplus money to buy novel goods. In this study, we turn the conventional view on its head, fixing consumption rather than labour input. Specifically, we use a basket of basic consumption goods and compute the working year of rural and urban day labourers required to achieve that. By comparing with independent estimates of the actual working year, we find two ‘industrious’ revolutions among rural workers; both, however, are attributable to economic hardship, and we detect no signs of a consumer revolution. For urban labourers, by contrast, a growing gap between their actual working year and the work required to buy the basket provides great scope for a consumer revolution.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Economic History Society in its journal The Economic History Review.

Volume (Year): 64 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 715-729

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:64:y:2011:i:3:p:715-729

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References

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  1. Gragnolati, Ugo & Moschella, Daniele & Pugliese, Emanuele, 2011. "The Spinning Jenny and the Industrial Revolution: A Reappraisal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(02), pages 455-460, June.
  2. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "The Industrial Revolution in Miniature: The Spinning Jenny in Britain, France, and India," Economics Series Working Papers 375, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
  4. 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.
  5. C. Knick Harley, 1998. "Cotton Textile Prices and the Industrial Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 51(1), pages 49-83, 02.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Paul R. Sharp & Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2011. "French Revolution or Industrial Revolution? A Note on the Contrasting Experiences of England and France up to 1800," Working Papers 0012, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  2. 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.
  3. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2011. "Human Development in Africa: A Long-run Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 8586, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Robert Allen, 2013. "Poverty Lines in History, Theory, and Current International Practice," Economics Series Working Papers 685, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  5. Mauro Rota & Luca Spinesi, 2013. "At the Onset of the original capital accumulation," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0179, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
  6. Eric B. Schneider, 2012. "Real Wages and the Family: Adjusting Real Wages to Changing Demography in Pre-Modern England," Economics Series Working Papers Number 99, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  7. Broadberry, Stephen, 2013. "Accounting For The Great Divergence," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 160, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  8. Koyama, Mark, 2012. "The transformation of labor supply in the pre-industrial world," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 505-523.
  9. Crafts, Nicholas & O’Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj, 2014. "Twentieth Century Growth*This research has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement no. 249546," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 6, pages 263-346 Elsevier.
  10. Stephen Broadberry & Bruce Campbell & Alexander Klein & Mark Overton & Bas van Leeuwen, 2012. "British Economic Growth, 1270-1870: an output-based approach," Studies in Economics 1203, Department of Economics, University of Kent.
  11. Johan Fourie, 2011. "Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795," Working Papers 21/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  12. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2012. "Output per head in pre-independence Africa : quantitative conjectures," Working Papers in Economic History wp12-11, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.

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