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Institutional facts and standardisation: the case of measurements in the London coal trade

Listed author(s):
  • Aashish Velkar

Measurement standards are like institutional facts – they enable the travel of information across different domains: geographical, social, institutional or contextual. Uncovering the reasons underlying how and why measurement standards are adopted can provide insights into how ‘well’ such facts travel. Using the example of measurements in the London coal trade c1830, I explore how measurement standards travel across different domains and why groups switch from one standard to another. In this specific example, I investigate how standardized measurements replaced the customary practice of heaped measures and, and argue that measurement standards replaced the system of public measurements as a mechanism to ensure transparency in transactions. I further argue that measurement standards were embedded in an institutional ‘package’ of artefacts, regulations and customary practices making this a process of negotiated change. Institutional facts are bounded by other institutional structures. In this case of measurement standards, facts appear to have travelled well when a change was made to the entire institutional context and not just the measurement artefact.

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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 22537.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22537
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LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.

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