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Prices and Profits in Cotton Textiles During the Industrial Revolution

  • C. Knick Harley

Cotton textile firms led the development of machinery-based industrialization in the Industrial Revolution.� This paper presents price and profits data extracted from the accounting records of three cotton firms between the 1770s and the 1820s.� The course of prices and profits in cotton textiles illumine the nature of the economic processes at work.� Some historians have seen the Industrial Revolution as a Schumpeterian process in which discontinuous technological change created large profits for innovators and succeeding decades were characterized by slow diffusion.� Technological secrecy and imperfect capital markets limited expansion of use of the new technology and output expanded as profits were reinvested until eventually the new technology dominated.� The evidence here supports a more equilibrium view which the industry expanded rapidly and prices fell in response to technological change.� Price and profit evidence indicates that expansion of the industry had led to dramatic price declines by the 1780s and there is no evidence of super profits thereafter.

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File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/4363/harley81.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number Number 81.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:number-81
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  1. Mokyr, Joel, 1976. "Growing-up and the industrial revolution in Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 371-396, November.
  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. C. Knick Harley, 1998. "Cotton Textile Prices and the Industrial Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 51(1), pages 49-83, 02.
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