Did small scale firms inhibit Victorian Growth?

Britain’s manufacturing firms have been accused of remaining family-run and small scale in the period 1850-1914, so ignoring the benefits of the large corporation evident in the USA. Discuss whether this represents a form of entrepreneurial failure by the owners of British firms.

Chandler identifies that corporation’s in America are vertically and horizontally integrated, invested in new technology and produced the latest industrial wares such as electricals, chemicals and automobiles. Britain was characterised by an “atomistic organisation of production”, according to Elbaum and Lazonick, with many small firms that were run by families. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1880s less than 10% of the manufacturing sector was accounted for by the largest 100 firms, the US figure was 22% (Hannah 1983). [...]

Was there a Victorian Failure in Manufacturing?

Comparisons of Britain’s labour productivity in manufacturing with that of other industrialised countries, such as the USA and Germany, from 1850-1914 suggest no dramatic decline in this sector during the period. However, labour productivity performance at the whole economy level was poor in comparison to other countries. (a) How can this be explained (b) Does it suggest a failure occurring in the UK economy?

Over the period 1850-1914 there was a decline in Britain’s overall labour productivity comparative to its competitors – against the US Britain was more productive in 1870 but was overtaken during the 1890s – in 1870 US/UK labour productivity in the aggregate economy was 89.8 [...]

Standards of Living during the Industrial Revolution

The debate about living standards in the Industrial Revolution has recently focused on anthropometric measures, such as height and mortality, and linked these to the ability to work more intensively. Describe how these factors may be related. Discuss what the anthropometric evidence reveals about living standards in this period.

Anthropometric measures add a new light on the debate and show whether people were healthier as a result of the industrial revolution. If they were then they would have been able to work more intensively because they would need fewer days off work due to fatigue or illness. Schultz believes that there is a positive relationship between height and productivity because height is a measure of nutritional status and better fed, healthier people could work harder. [...]

Unemployment during the Inter-War period

The 1919-20 reduction in working hours accompanied by the maintenance of the weekly wage has been argued to underlie the rapid rise in unemployment in Britain in the early 1920s and some of the persistence of unemployment through to 1939. To what extent can these aspects of interwar unemployment be attributed to this supply-side change?

Unemployment was persistently high during the inter-war years at 10.9% (Feinstein) compared to an average of 5% pre-WWI. Even within the inter-war period there were large differences in this rate – jumping from 17% in 1921 to 9.7% in 1927 and reaching a peak of 22.1% [...]

Technological Revolution

Explain the debate between Allen and Mokyr on the role of institutions and resources in explaining the Industrial Revolution in Britain

Mokyr believed that the Industrial Revolution was greatly aided by the technological changes which came about through an increase in scientific knowledge from what he termed the Industrial Enlightenment. This enlightenment came about through increased scientific knowledge, skilled craftsmen and experimentation. Scientific knowledge improved through a number of factors; firstly overall education improved as higher real wages meant that it made more sense for couples to have fewer children but to invest more in their education. This was further enhanced by increased urbanisation which increased the incentive to learn as urban citizens would need to read, write and count to conduct business and trade. [...]

Was there an agricultural revolution?

‘Agriculture played a fundamental role in British industrialisation.’

  • Explain the main ways in which agriculture can theoretically influence industrialisation. Word Count = 498

Agriculture can influence industrialisation through the generation or release of capital, the release of labour, acting as a market for industrial goods or through increased output.

Perhaps the most fundamental way that agriculture affects industrialisation is by providing output (foodstuffs and raw materials) which sustain an industrial urban population. If the urban population is growing quickly then the agricultural industry would need to increase output to feed these workers, this could work by the price of foodstuffs rising which would encourage more investment in farms and a strive to increase productivity. [...]

Demography and the Industrial Revolution

What were the causes of the distinctive characteristics of English fertility behaviour during the Industrial Revolution? (b) How did the fertility rate interact with economic growth during this period?

demographyBefore the causes of fertility behaviour are explored, we need to first look at what these characteristics were in the first place. From the graph to the left1 we can see that the crude birth rate (which is defined as the number of live births per 1000 people) starts off at about 30 births per 1000 people in 1680 but increases to about 44 births per 1000 by 1820. This is a significant increase, especially as Malthus believed that the maximum biological rate of fertility can only be about 50 per 1000 people – so the fertility rate was approaching the maximum in 1820. [...]