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    Shell, Hanna Rose 2014. Shoddy heap: a material history between waste and manufacture. History and Technology, Vol. 30, Issue. 4, p. 374.

  • Volume 1: Industrialisation, 1700–1860
  • Edited by Roderick Floud, London Metropolitan University , Paul Johnson, London School of Economics and Political Science

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The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain provides a readable and comprehensive survey of the economic history of Britain since industrialisation, based on the most up-to-date research into the subject. Roderick Floud and Paul Johnson have assembled a team of fifty leading scholars from around the world to produce a set of volumes which are both a lucid textbook for students and an authoritative guide to the subject. The text pays particular attention to the explanation of quantitative and theory-based enquiry, but all forms of historical research are used to provide a comprehensive account of the development of the British economy. Volume I covers the period 1700–1860 when Britain led the world in the process of industrialisation. It will be an invaluable guide for undergraduate and postgraduate students in history, economics and other social sciences.


'The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain has all the hallmarks of a mature textbook.'

Source: Economic History Review

'… these volumes are the best available economic history of modern Britain. They demonstrate not only the vitality of the subject but its fundamental importance and relevance.'

Source: History

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  • Chapter1 - Accounting for the Industrial Revolution
    pp 1-27
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    On the eve of the Industrial Revolution, Britain was a highly developed, commercialised, sophisticated economy in which a large proportion of the labour force was engaged in non-agricultural activities. The quality of life, as measured by the consumption of non-essentials and life expectancy, was as high as could be expected anywhere on this planet. The national income accounting concept of GDP or GNP growth has become associated with economic change for good reason. The intellectual foundations of the technology which made the Industrial Revolution came out of the Enlightenment, the scientific advances of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the printing press. Accounting for the Industrial Revolution involves an understanding of the changes in the culture and technology of useful knowledge that had been in the making since at least the era of Bacon and Galileo. Relative factor prices and demand played an important role in directing technological progress in particular directions.
  • Chapter2 - Industrial organisation and structure
    pp 28-56
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    This chapter analyses the causes and consequences of variation in business organisation and structure. It is divided into three main sections. The first covers the spread of household production for distant markets, paying particular attention to regional and local contexts. The second addresses the development of the factory. The third section provides an explanation of diversity in organisation and structure by emphasising the way in which adaptation to local circumstances produced different outcomes whilst imperfect competition and various reactions to high transaction costs prevented a competitive drift towards a unique industrial form. The proto-industrial literature has highlighted not only the influence of culture and institutions upon industrial forms but also the impact of different occupational cultures upon many aspects of personal and social life. A pluralistic business structure was the workshop as much as the factory, and families and communities as much as heroic entrepreneurs and inventors, which created the dynamism of industrialisation in Britain.
  • Chapter3 - British population during the ‘long’ eighteenth century, 1680–1840
    pp 57-95
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    In the later seventeenth century the population of Britain was static in number. Fertility and mortality were in balance. In the early decades of the nineteenth century the population was increasing more rapidly than at any earlier or later period. This chapter presents figure that provides an overview of population change during the long eighteenth century. It presents table that provides population totals at five-year intervals and estimates of crude birth, marriage and death rates, the gross reproduction rate, expectation of life at birth, the intrinsic growth rate, and the dependency ratio for five-year periods between 1681 and 1841. Although fertility, mortality and nuptiality necessarily form the core of a description of the population history of Britain in the long eighteenth century, to regard the story as consisting solely of the development of these three variables and their interrelationships would be to overlook some of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of the population history of the period.
  • Chapter4 - Agriculture during the industrial revolution, 1700–1850
    pp 96-116
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    British agriculture developed in a distinctive manner that made important contributions to economic growth. A broad chronological and geographical perspective is needed for an assessment of British agriculture during the industrial revolution. In the eighteenth century, there was a consensus that enclosure and large-scale farming raised output. Farm output went up for two reasons: the land, labour and capital used by agriculture increased, and those inputs generated more output owing to improvements in farm methods and organisation. The history of outputs and inputs implies that productivity grew from 1700 to 1850. Over that period, land grew 37 per cent, labour 16 per cent and capital 93 per cent. Agricultural productivity rose because output increased and employment per acre declined. Even if enclosure was not of great importance in boosting output or efficiency, it is possible that agricultural change in toto made an important contribution to economic development.
  • Chapter5 - Industrialisation and technological change
    pp 117-146
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    This chapter seeks to map some overall dimensions and distributions of technological change in British manufacturing during the period. The reason for this mapping exercise is that interpretation of the links between innovation and long-term growth should rest on an informed empirical understanding of the extent and character of innovation during the period in question. The chapter discusses historiographical debates on the connections between technological change and economic growth in the British economy. It reviews the evidence for a number of important economic sectors in terms of the technological advances taking place over the period. The chapter focuses on two broad types of activity, agriculture and food processing, and on the glass industry. Together with steam power, textile machinery has been the emblematic technology of the industrial revolution, to the extent that many histories of the industrial revolution have seen textiles not only as the primary site of innovation but also as the driving force of economic growth.
  • Chapter6 - Money, finance and capital markets
    pp 147-174
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    From 1688 to 1873, shocks and incremental innovations created a new system of finance for the British economy. Britain began with coins, bills of exchange and local credit networks. London was the place to sell bills of exchange because the money market was so deep. This chapter focuses on the effects of two forces on the development of Britain's financial intermediaries. Shocks, especially political ones, rapidly changed the financial environment through events like wars, regulations and bubbles. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the wars with France from 1793 to 1815 were of particular importance. How the financial system developed is important because money and finance are the mirror image of virtually every economic activity. The spread of commercial banking across Britain brought banking panics. As a consequence, commercial banks replaced banknotes with deposits, and London's money market and securities market became the largest in the world.
  • Chapter7 - Trade: discovery, mercantilism and technology
    pp 175-203
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    Britain's early modern economic growth intertwined with an international economy that was undergoing epochal change. European discovery of America had extraordinary repercussions on world trade. In the middle of the nineteenth century the politics of trade shifted as Britain led the dismantling of the restrictions of eighteenth-century mercantilism. The repeal of the corn laws in 1846 was the great symbol. Britain's political consensus shifted radically from supporting a trade policy of protecting vital interests, particularly the landed interest and those of East and West Indian traders, to a commitment to free trade. The ratio of trade to national income continued to grow in the nineteenth century, although somewhat surprisingly it hardly increased during the industrial revolution itself, when British cotton textiles firms quickly found large overseas markets for products of their improved technology, but did so at sharply lower prices.
  • Chapter8 - Government and the economy, 1688–1850
    pp 204-237
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    This chapter discusses a role of government in the British economy between 1700 and 1850 on the basic assumption of the existence of two distinct spheres: the market and the state. The state-centred view has a dual origin: it is rooted in the fiscal-military nature of the state and in the definition of efficient property rights. The chapter explores whether the British economy substantially regulated by the state during the industrial revolution. While industry overall was in private hands during the first industrial revolution, infrastructure and utilities were not in purely private hands. Three examples of the complex mixture of private and public ownership are turnpike roads, water supply projects and railways. The chapter deals with the assertion that the government bond market and the corporate share market competed with one another. It also discusses the construction and protection of three additional types of property: land, slaves and intellectual property in technological innovations.
  • Chapter9 - Household economy
    pp 238-267
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    This chapter begins with the shock caused when empirical findings on the size and structure of pre-industrial households caught up with established evolutionary and structuralist-functionalist theories of the household. It summarises the evidence on households' measurable characteristics during industrialisation and the search for explanation in a theory of mutual advantage. The chapter notes the survival of features of the pre-industrial household such as live-in service and domestic production and describes the heterogeneous historical experiences of wage earning households. The household economy provides a fresh perspective on ongoing mainstream debates about the standard of living and consumption during the industrial revolution. The chapter disputes grand theories of structural differentiation, which polarise the pre-industrial and post-industrial household. The persistence of small and micro enterprise provided a niche for household production, co-residence and kin-service. Household production units shaded imperceptibly into self-employed households. Ubiquitous in industrialising Britain, they provided another niche for household-based economic co-operation.
  • Chapter10 - Living standards and the urban environment
    pp 268-294
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    Most social scientists would agree that civil and political rights are important aspects of the standard of living. Compared to many European countries at the time of the industrial revolution, Britons enjoyed a relatively high degree of civil liberties. While more comprehensive indicators of living standards that incorporate information on infant mortality, life expectancy and literacy appear highly correlated with stature in the twentieth century as well as over the very long run, the same is not true during earlier periods. This chapter examines whether the great shift of labour out of agriculture and into industry coincide with a move towards much longer working hours. The great shift out of agriculture and into industry implied a reallocation of labourers from rural areas and small towns to the cities. New industrial cities changed the urban hierarchy. For a long time, the standard-of-living debate has been strangely divorced from research on macroeconomic performance as a whole.
  • Chapter11 - Transport
    pp 295-331
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    This chapter describes the process of transport growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and focuses on its political, organisational and developmental impact. Transport systems move people, goods and information. The chapter also focuses on each of these functions in order to reveal the pervasive role of the transport industry in modern British history. It distinguishes direct benefits of transport investment to the parties to the contract and the indirect or unintended impact on third parties. The chapter highlights the major developments in various transport modes, and summarises the improvements to transport provision that resulted. It examines the likely economy-wide impact of transport through its share of national aggregates such as investment, productivity and earnings, and identifies many of the sources of productivity growth. The chapter shows that most transport infrastructure and services grew more rapidly than national income of Britain.
  • Chapter12 - Education and skill of the British labour force
    pp 332-356
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    This chapter examines the composition of these skills and how they were acquired, looking at the conditions around 1700, and at the developments over the period to 1860. It concludes by evaluating the effect of education and skill formation on overall economic performance. The acquisition of skill and education can be usefully examined with the concept of human capital. The English industrial revolution offers a number of challenges to conventional views of the role of education in economic growth. First, it offers the example of rapidly growing sectors, often classified as leading, in which large segments of their labour forces had little formal education, and in which formal education levels, as measured by literacy, may indeed have actually declined for extended periods of time. Second, the overall improvement in formal educational levels between 1750 and 1860 appears to have been quite modest, despite substantial growth in both total and per capita income.
  • Chapter13 - Consumption in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain
    pp 357-387
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    The discussion of consumption is directed to the broader concept of demand. The chapter explores if demand was an independent variable in the process of economic growth and its role in the explanations of the industrial revolution. Economic analysis of consumer behaviour has been based on a variety of models of price and income elasticity, time use and household decision-making, habits and social norms, and interactive consumer behaviour such as responses to aspirational groups. Consumer aspirations across class and gender stimulated the rapid and extensive proliferation of new commodities from the later seventeenth century onwards. Qualitative characteristics underlay the rapid growth in demand in Europe for particular imported luxury consumer goods, notably Indian calicoes and Chinese porcelain. The chapter shows how consuming the new commodities were connected with specific cultural settings of taste, gentility, politeness and fashion. The taste for shopping was spread further through advertisements by the end of the eighteenth century.
  • Chapter14 - Scotland
    pp 388-416
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    Between 1600 and 1650 anywhere between an estimated 55,000 and 70,000 Scots had migrated across the North Sea. These movements helped to consolidate commercial links with Europe's inland sea, the heart of economic development in the north of the continent, and so provide an impetus to urban development along Scotland's east coast. What was more important was the confirmation that the Scottish governing classes were now on the side of material progress and lending their considerable political authority to the cause of national economic reform. From the 1740s to the 1780s, the new free-trade area created by the Union was crucial, linen, and its most successful branch in overseas trade, tobacco. By the later eighteenth century, many Scots were growing rich from the profits of colonial commerce to North America and the Caribbean, and from trade and office holding in India and the East Indies.
  • Chapter15 - The extractive industries
    pp 417-450
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    At the base of the 'mineral economy' lay the extractive industries, those that mined and quarried the raw material from its native rock. Mainland Britain was, and still is, richly endowed with a wide range of minerals, dispersed widely across the country. Construction and industrial minerals were widely distributed across the country and their production was usually linked to local demand in building, manufacturing and agriculture. The great expansion of markets at home and abroad, and the vanquishing of foreign competition, was all achieved without a significant sustained reduction in real market prices. Like the manufacturing sector, the extractive industries saw major changes in organisation and technology, changes that also helped to stabilise costs in the pursuit of ever more complex and difficult mineral deposits. Institutional development paved the way for technical changes in the means and methods of mining, and was in its turn influenced by those changes.
  • Chapter16 - The industrial revolution in global perspective
    pp 451-464
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    In centralising and strengthening the power of the state, Britain followed the basic outlines of mercantilism, a policy which was also pursued by most other European nations. This chapter explores whether the structural foundations of the industrial revolution to be found in nationally distinctive economic, political, legal, social or cultural changes. The British, unlike the French, experienced very rapid growth and trade expansion between 1780 and 1820, even during the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The other nations of Western Europe, such as Belgium, Switzerland and the German states, generally had some increase in economic growth in the eighteenth century, but their increases and structural changes were not as dramatic as those of Britain, despite similarities in politics and culture. The traditional attention paid to a first British industrial revolution has underplayed some important aspects of developments in other areas of the world and their relations with Britain.

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