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Geography is not Destiny. Geography, Institutions and Literacy in England, 1837-1863


  • Gregory Clark

    () (University of California, Davis)

  • Rowena Gray

    () (University of Essex)


Geography made rural society in the south-east of England unequal. Economies of scale in grain growing created a farmer elite and many landless labourers. In the pastoral north-west, in contrast, family farms dominated, with few hired labourers and modest income disparities. Engerman and Sokoloff (2012) argue that such differences in social structure between large plantations in the southern Americas, and family farming in the north, explain the rise of schooling in the north, and its absence in the south. We show, however, that rural literacy across England 1810-45 was not determined by geographically driven inequality. There were substantial differences in literacy by region, but driven by culture not geography. Geography is not destiny.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Clark & Rowena Gray, 2012. "Geography is not Destiny. Geography, Institutions and Literacy in England, 1837-1863," Working Papers 0015, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0015

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik, 2016. "Landownership concentration and the expansion of education," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 135-152.
    2. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
    3. Guido Tabellini, 2010. "Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 677-716, June.
    4. Sascha Becker & Ludger Wößmann, 2008. "Luther and the Girls: Religious Denomination and the Female Education Gap in 19th Century Prussia," CESifo Working Paper Series 2414, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2010. "The effect of Protestantism on education before the industrialization: Evidence from 1816 Prussia," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 224-228, May.
    6. Mitchener, Kris James & McLean, Ian W, 2003. "The Productivity of US States since 1880," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 73-114, March.
    7. Williamson,Jeffrey G., 1990. "Coping with City Growth during the British Industrial Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521364805, May.
    8. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2005. "Land Inequality and the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions," Development and Comp Systems 0502018, EconWPA.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai, 2014. "Rethinking spatial inequalities in development: the primacy of politics and power relations," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-029-14, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    2. Morgan Kelly & Joel Mokyr & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2015. "Roots of the Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 201524, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    3. Kelly, Morgan & Mokyr, Joel & Grada, Cormac O, 2015. "Roots of the Industrial Revolution," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 248, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

    More about this item


    Comparative regional history; European education history; human capital development;

    JEL classification:

    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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