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Wages and prices in early Catalan industrialisation

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  • Julio Martínez-Galarraga

    ()
    (Universitat de València)

  • Marc Prat

    ()
    (Facultat d'Economia i Empresa; Universitat de Barcelona (UB))

Abstract

Catalonia was the only Mediterranean region among the early followers of the British Industrial Revolution in the second third of the nineteenth century. The roots of this industrialisation process can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the Catalan economy became successfully integrated in international trade and the region enjoyed an intensification of its agrarian and proto-industrial activities. These capitalist developments were subsequently reinforced by a successful printed calico manufacturing business concentrated in the city of Barcelona. Although the factory system was largely adopted by the cotton industry in the 1840s, the diffusion of the spinning jenny had occurred earlier in the 1790s. In this paper, in line with Allen (2009a, 2009b), we explore whether relative factor prices played a role in the widespread adoption of the spinning jenny in Catalonia. First, we supply series of real wages in Barcelona for the period 1500-1808 in line with studies conducted within the ‘Great Divergence’ debate. Second, we undertake a comparative analysis of the relationship between the prices of labour and capital.Finally, we focus on the cotton spinning sector to determine the potential profitability of the adoption of the spinning jenny in Catalonia. We find that although Catalonia was not a high wage economy in the way that Britain was in the second half of the eighteenth century, evidence from the cotton spinning sector confirms the relevance of relative factor prices in the adoption of new technology. Within the booming sector of cotton after the 1780s, high wages created strong incentives for adopting the labour-saving spinning jenny.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics in its series UB Economics Working Papers with number 2014/305.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ewp:wpaper:305web

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Keywords: Economic History; Great Divergence; Industrial Revolution; Standards of Living; Cotton Industry; Technological Transfer.;

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References

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  1. Allen, Robert C., 2009. "The Industrial Revolution in Miniature: The Spinning Jenny in Britain, France, and India," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(04), pages 901-927, December.
  2. Ugo M. Gragnolat & Daniele Moschella & Emanuele Pugliese, 2014. "The spinning jenny and the guillotine: technology diffusion at the time of revolutions," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 8(1), pages 5-26, January.
  3. Crafts, Nicholas, 2011. "Explaining the first Industrial Revolution: two views," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 153-168, April.
  4. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  5. Allen, Robert C. & Murphy, Tommy E. & Schneider, Eric B., 2012. "The Colonial Origins of the Divergence in the Americas: A Labor Market Approach," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(04), pages 863-894, December.
  6. Nicholas Crafts, 1998. "Forging Ahead and Falling Behind: The Rise and Relative Decline of the First Industrial Nation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 193-210, Spring.
  7. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2005. "The curse of Moctezuma: American silver and the Dutch disease," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 349-380, July.
  8. Ugo Gragnolati & Daniele Moschella & Emanuele Pugliese, 2010. "The Spinning Jenny and the Industrial Revolution: A Reappraisal," LEM Papers Series, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy 2010/09, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  9. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521687850.
  10. Allen, Robert C., 2011. "The Spinning Jenny: A Fresh Look," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(02), pages 461-464, June.
  11. Julie Marfany, 2010. "Is it still helpful to talk about proto-industrialization? Some suggestions from a Catalan case study," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, Economic History Society, vol. 63(4), pages 942-973, November.
  12. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
  13. Eric Schneider, 2012. "Real Wages and the Family: Adjusting Real Wages to Changing Demography in Pre-Modern England," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford _099, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  14. 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, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
  15. Daniel A. Tirado & Julio Martinez-Galarraga, 2008. "Una nova estimacio retrospectiva del VAB regional industrial. Espanya (1860-1930)," Working Papers in Economics, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia 192, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.
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