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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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  • Leunig, Tim

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Leunig, Tim, 2003. "A British industrial success: productivity in the Lancashire and New England cotton spinning industries a century ago," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 494, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:494
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/494/
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    Cited by:

    1. Klein, Alexander & Leunig, Tim, 2013. "Gibrat's Law and the British industrial revolution," Economic History Working Papers 58363, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    2. 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.
    3. Crafts, Nicholas & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2014. "The Location of the UK Cotton Textiles Industry in 1838: A Quantitative Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(04), pages 1103-1139, December.
    4. Broadberry, Stephen & Burhop, Carsten, 2008. "Resolving the Anglo-German Industrial Productivity Puzzle, 1895–1935: A Response to Professor Ritschl," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 930-934, September.
    5. Crafts, Nicholas, 2012. "British relative economic decline revisited: The role of competition," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 17-29.
    6. Crafts, Nicholas, 2011. "British Relative Economic Decline Revisited," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 42, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    7. Joel Mokyr & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2012. "Understanding Growth in Europe, 1700–1870: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, vol. 13(5), pages 57-102.
    8. Jong, H. de & Woltjer, P., 2009. "A Comparison of Real Output and Productivity for British and American Manufacturing in 1935," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-108, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    9. Theo Balderston, 2010. "The economics of abundance: coal and cotton in Lancashire and the world," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(3), pages 569-590, August.
    10. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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