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Not Only Subterranean Forests: Wood Consumption And Economic Development In Britain (1850-1938)

  • Iñaki Iriarte-Goñi

    ()

    (Department of Applied Economics and Economic History, Faculty of Economics. Gran Vía 4, (50005) Zaragoza, Spain)

  • María Isabel Ayuda

    ()

    (Department of Economic Analysis, Faculty of Economics. Gran Vía 4, (50005) Zaragoza, Spain.)

The essential aim of this paper is to analyze wood consumption in Great Britain over the period 1850-1938. We calculate the apparent consumption of wood in Britain, taking into account both net imports of wood and the home harvest of wood. Then we develop some quantitative exercises which correlate wood consumption with GDP, and with prices of wood and iron (as an alternative material to wood). The main conclusion is that, although wood had lost its economic centrality after the energetic transition, wood consumption continued to grow in Britain both in absolute and relative terms, showing a positive elasticity to GDP superior to the unity. The decline of wood prices in the long run, the innovations affecting wood exploitation and treatment, and the fact that wood was used in a wide range of economic activities, can explain that growth in consumption. Britain faced the increase in wood demand relying almost totally on imports. Thus, although British economic development was to a great extent focussed on what has been called the “subterranean forests” of coal, simultaneously supported large tracts of foreign forest.

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Paper provided by Asociacion Espa–ola de Historia Economica in its series Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) with number 1107.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ahe:dtaehe:1107
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