IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Agricultural Seasonality and the Organization of Manufacturing During Early Industrialization: The Contrast Between Britain and the United States


  • Kenneth L. Sokoloff
  • David Dollar


The United States differed dramatically from Britain in the way manufacturing was organized during early industrialization. Even before widespread mechanization, American production was almost exclusively from centralized plants, whereas the British and other European economies were characterized by extensive cottage manufacture. This paper argues that this contrast was rooted in a salient disparity between the land-to-labor ratios of the two countries. Together with its later settlement, the relative abundance of land in the U.S. led its agricultural sector to be much less concentrated in grain than was British agriculture. Since the labor requirements of grain production were much more seasonal than were those of the other major agricultural products of the era (dairy products, livestock, wood, and cleared land), and agriculture was the dominant sector in both economies, there were more seasonal fluctuations in British labor markets than in the American. We argue that this difference in the extent of seasonality is crucial, because cottage manufacture had a relative advantage in the use of offpeak or part-time labor. Quantitative evidence and a general equilibrium model are employed to present the analysis, and subject it to tests of consistency with the empirical record .

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth L. Sokoloff & David Dollar, 1991. "Agricultural Seasonality and the Organization of Manufacturing During Early Industrialization: The Contrast Between Britain and the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0030 Note: DAE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Flinn, Christopher J & Heckman, James J, 1983. "Are Unemployment and Out of the Labor Force Behaviorally Distinct Labor Force States?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 28-42, January.
    2. Moen, Jon, 1987. "The Labor of Older Men: A Comment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(03), pages 761-767, September.
    3. Joseph F. Quinn & Richard V. Burkhauser & Daniel A. Myers, 1990. "Passing the Torch: The Influence of Economic Incentives on Work and Retirement," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number pt, November.
    4. Margo, Robert A., 1990. "The incidence and duration of unemployment : Some long-term comparisons," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 217-220, March.
    5. Thomas S. Coleman, 1989. "Unemployment Behavior: Evidence from the CPS Work Experience Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 1-38.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Sokoloff, Kenneth L. & Tchakerian, Viken, 1997. "Manufacturing Where Agriculture Predominates: Evidence from the South and Midwest in 1860," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 243-264, July.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0030. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.