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New answers to old questions: explaining the slow adoption of ring spinning in Lancashire, 1880-1913

  • Tim Leunig

This paper re-examines theories previously advanced to explain Lancashire’s slow adoption of ring spinning. New cost estimates show that although additional transport costs and technical complementarities between certain types of machine reduced ring adoption rates, these supply side constraints were not dominant. Instead what mattered most were demand side factors. Lancashire produced far more fine yarns than other countries and that yarn was better spun on mules. Furthermore, Lancashire had a sizeable export yarn trade, a market again more suited to mule spinning. Low ring adoption rates were a positive response to demand patterns dominated by high quality goods.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22378.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22378
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
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  1. Lazonick, William, 1981. "Factor Costs and the Diffusion of Ring Spinning in Britain Prior to World War I," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 89-109, February.
  2. Sandberg, Lars G, 1969. "American Rings and English Mules: The Role of Economic Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 25-43, February.
  3. Harley, C. K., 1974. "Skilled labour and the choice of technique in Edwardian industry," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 391-414.
  4. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
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