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A British industrial success: productivity in the Lancashire and New England cotton spinning industries a century ago

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  • Tim Leunig
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    Abstract

    This paper uses new product-specific, micro-level US data to show that New England had lower levels of productivity in cotton spinning than Lancashire, c. 1900, contradicting results derived by Broadberry from the Censuses of Production. The discrepancy stems from the Censuses’ poor methods of aggregating heterogeneous yarn output. The finding that Britain – the labour-abundant country – has higher labour productivity contradicts the Rothbarth-Habakkuk model. We suggest Britain’s industrial success stems from more intensive competition, manifested through external economies of scale and longer production runs. We finish with some speculative implications for British performance in the first and second industrial revolutions.

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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/494/
    File Function: Open access version.
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 494.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2003
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    Publication status: Published in Economic History Review, February, 2003, 56(1), pp. 90-117. ISSN: 1468-0289
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:494

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    Related research

    Keywords: cotton; spinning; Lancashire; New England; productivity; Rothbarth-Habakkuk; Chandler; rings; mules; external economies of scale; competition;

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    Cited by:
    1. Crafts, Nicholas, 2011. "British Relative Economic Decline Revisited," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 42, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Crafts, Nicholas & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2013. "The Location of the UK Cotton Textiles Industry in 1838: a Quantitative Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 9626, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Ciliberto, Federico, 2010. "Were British cotton entrepreneurs technologically backward? Firm-level evidence on the adoption of ring spinning," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 487-504, October.
    4. Leslie Hannah, 2007. "Logistics, Market Size and Giant Plants in the Early 20th Century: A Global View," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-486, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.

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