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New Answers to Old Questions: Transport Costs and the Slow Adoption of Ring Spinning in Lancashire

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  • Tim Leunig

    (Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London)

Abstract

It has been argued that the additional cost of transporting ring yarn in the vertically and geographically specialised Lancashire cotton industry was sufficiently high to deter spinners from adopting rings. The absence of a transition to large scale vertically integrated plants is seen as a form of entrepreneurial failure. In this paper we use new evidence to show that the majority of yarn could have been woven within the district in which it was spun, and, further, that in such areas, the average distance between spinners and weavers was a matter of yards. Transport costs were no more important for these firms that for vertically integrated ones. This yields a testable hypothesis: vertically specialised firms located in this areas should have been as read to adopt rings as were integrated firms. We test this proposition and find it to be correct: co-located independent, vertically specialised firms were as likely to adopt rings as were vertically integrated firms. As such the industry's failure to move to large scale vertically integrated production cannot be characterised as a form of entrepreneurial failure.

Suggested Citation

  • Tim Leunig, 1998. "New Answers to Old Questions: Transport Costs and the Slow Adoption of Ring Spinning in Lancashire," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _022, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_022
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/2258/22leunig.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazonick, William, 1983. "Industrial Organization and Technological Change: The Decline of the British Cotton Industry," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(02), pages 195-236, June.
    2. 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.
    3. John Jewkes, 1951. "The Growth Of World Industry," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-15.
    4. DONALD N. McCLOSKEY, 1970. "Did Victorian Britain Fail?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 23(3), pages 446-459, December.
    5. William Lazonick, 1984. "Rings and Mules in Britain: Reply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(2), pages 393-398.
    6. Lars G. Sandberg, 1984. "The Remembrance of Things Past: Rings and Mules Revisited," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(2), pages 387-392.
    7. William Lazonick, 1981. "Factor Costs and the Diffusion of Ring Spinning in Britain Prior to World War I," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 96(1), pages 89-109.
    8. Lars G. Sandberg, 1969. "American Rings and English Mules: The Role of Economic Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(1), pages 25-43.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2005. "The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 546-579, June.
    2. Liam Brunt, 1999. "An Arbitrage Model in Crop Rotation in 18th Century England," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _032, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    3. James Malcomson & Martin Chalkley, 2001. "Cost Sharing in Health Service Provision: An Empirical Assessment of Cost Savings," Economics Series Working Papers 69, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Camilla Brautaset & Regina Grafe, 2006. "The Quiet Transport Revolution: Returns to scale, scope and network density in Norway's nineteenth-century sailing fleet," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _062, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    5. Federico Varese & Meir Yaish, 1998. "Altruism:The Importance of Being Asked. The Rescue of Jews in Nazi Europe," Economics Series Working Papers 1998-W24, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. J.Humphries & T. Leunig, 2007. "Cities, Market Integration and Going to Sea: Stunting and the standard of living in early nineteenth-century England and Wales," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _066, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    7. Asadullah, Mohammad Niaz, 2010. "Educational Disparity in East and West Pakistan, 1947-71: Was East Pakistan Discriminated Against?," Bangladesh Development Studies, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), vol. 33(3), pages 1-46, September.
    8. Natalia Mora-Sitja, 2006. "Exploring Changes in Earnings Inequality during Industrialization: Barcelona, 1856-1905," Economics Series Working Papers 2006-W61, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    9. Liam Brunt, 1999. "An Arbitrage Model in Crop Rotation in 18th Century England," Economics Series Working Papers 1999-W32, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    10. Regina Grafe, 2004. "Popish Habits vs. Nutritional Need: Fasting and Fish Consumption in Iberia in the Early Modern Period," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _055, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    11. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, "undated". "General Purpose Technologies and Surges in Productivity: Historical Reflections on the Future of the ICT Revolution," Working Papers 99026, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    12. repec:oxf:wpaper:69.2 is not listed on IDEAS

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