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Spinning the Industrial Revolution

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  • Jane Humphries

Abstract

Abstract: The prevailing explanation for why the Industrial Revolution occurred first in Britain is Robert Allen’s (2009) ‘high†wage economy’ view, which claims that the high cost of labour relative to capital and fuel incentivized innovation and the adoption of new techniques. This paper presents new empirical evidence on hand spinning before the Industrial Revolution and demonstrates that there was no such ‘high†wage economy’ in spinning, a leading sector of industrialization. We quantify the working lives of frequently ignored female and child spinners who were crucial to the British textile industry in the Early Modern period with evidence of productivity and wages from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. Our results show that spinning was a widespread, low†wage, low†productivity employment, in line with the Humphries (2013) view of the motivations for the factory system.

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Humphries, 2016. "Spinning the Industrial Revolution," Economics Series Working Papers 145, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:145
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/14544/spinning-the-industrial-revolution-for-discussion-paper-series-final.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Carsten Eckel & J. Peter Neary, 2010. "Multi-Product Firms and Flexible Manufacturing in the Global Economy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 188-217.
    2. Carlo Reggiani, 2008. "Oligopolistic Non-Linear Pricing and Size Economies," Discussion Papers 08/07, Department of Economics, University of York.
    3. Justin P. Johnson & David P. Myatt, 2003. "Multiproduct Quality Competition: Fighting Brands and Product Line Pruning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 748-774, June.
    4. Justin P. Johnson & David P. Myatt, 2006. "On the Simple Economics of Advertising, Marketing, and Product Design," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 756-784, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Hand spinning; Womenʹs wages; Industrial Revolution; Textiles; Great Divergence; High Wage Economy interpretation of invention and innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • J46 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Informal Labor Market
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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