Spinning the industrial revolution

JANE HUMPHRIES, BENJAMIN SCHNEIDER

THE ECONOMIC HISTORY REVIEW

Abstract: The prevailing explanation for why the industrial revolution occurred first in Britain during the last quarter of the eighteenth century is Allen’s ‘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 article presents new empirical evidence on hand spinning before the industrial revolution and demonstrates that there was no such ‘high wage economy’ in spinning, which was 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 with evidence of productivity and wages from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. Spinning emerges as a widespread, low‐productivity, low‐wage employment, in which wages did not rise substantially in advance of the introduction of the jenny and water frame. The motivation for mechanization must be sought elsewhere.

The Past and the Future of Innovation: some lessons from Economic History

JOEL MOKYR

EXPLORATIONS IN ECONOMIC HISTORY

Abstract: In recent years, economists have revived the specter of slow growth and secular stagnation. From the point of view of economic history, what should we make of such doomster prophecies? As economic historians all know, for 97 percent or so of recorded history, the stationary state well-describes the long-run dynamics of the world economy. Growth was slow, intermittent, and reversible. The Industrial Revolution rang in a period of sustained economic growth. Is that growth sustainable? One way to come to grips with that question is to analyze the brakes on economic growth before the Industrial Revolution and examine how they were released. Once these mechanisms are identified, we can look at the economic history of the past few decades and make an assessment of how likely growth is to continue. The answer I give is simple: there is no technological reason for growth in economic welfare to slow down, although institutions may become in some area a serious concern on the sustainability of growth.

A short history of constitutional liberalism in America

CONSTITUTIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY

ROGER D. CONGLETON

Abstract: American liberalism emerged before the most famous European liberal intellectuals put their pens to paper. It was grounded partly on liberal ideas that were in the air before those works were written, but mostly on the attractive communities generated by liberal institutions and policies. American liberalism is empirically, rather than theoretically, grounded. This paper uses excerpts from colonial and constitutional documents to demonstrate the long history of liberal institutions in the territories that became the United States. American liberalism is an evolutionary rather than an intellectual phenomenon.

State Intervention in Wine Markets in the Early 20th Century: Why was it so Different in France and Spain?

JORDI PLANAS

REVISITA DE HISTORIA ECONOMICA – JOURNAL OF IBERIAN AND LATIN AMERICAN ECONOMIC HISTORY, Volume 35, Issue 2

Abstract: In the early 20th century, governments not only used trade policy to protect domestic agricultural markets, but they also introduced regulations affecting quality, quantity and prices. In this article I assess the differences in the state intervention in wine markets in two major wine-producing countries, France and Spain, and try to explain the reasons for them. To do so, I examine the specific features of their markets and productive systems, the winegrowers’ collective action, and the political framework in each country. I argue that the differences are related to (a) the strength and cohesion of the winegrowers’ lobby, (b) the winegrowers’ relationship with political parties and (c) the state’s ability to respond to their demands.

Culture, Politics, and Economic Development

PAUL COLLIER

ANNUAL REVIEW OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Abstract: For a generation, political science has been dominated by the analysis of interests within the framework of rational choice. Although this has enabled major advances, it struggles to provide a plausible analysis of many instances of sociopolitical dysfunction. This article reviews recent innovations in economics, psychology, and economic history that are converging to rehabilitate culture as a legitimate element of analysis. Culture matters, and its evolution is amenable to formal scientific analysis. But these processes need not be benign: There is no equivalent to the invisible hand of the market, guiding a culture toward social optimality. An organizational culture can trap a vital public agency, such as a tax administration, into severe dysfunction. A societal culture can trap an entire country into autocracy or poverty.

Do liberal ties pacify? A study of the Cod Wars

SVERRIR STEINSSON
Abstract: The Cod Wars, three militarized interstate disputes between the UK and Iceland (1958–1961, 1972–1973, 1975–1976), have often been presented as an egregious exception to the liberal peace. There are, however, few comprehensive analyses of the liberal dimensions of the Cod Wars. This paper comprehensively analyses the ways in which each of the Cod Wars is consistent or inconsistent with the liberal peace. I find that while the supposedly pacifying factors of the liberal peace – democracy, trade and institutional ties – effectively made the disputes more contentious, they also ensured that escalation to actual war was impossible.

Human capital, knowledge and economic development: evidence from the British Industrial Revolution, 1750–1930

B. ZORINA KHAN

CLIOMETRICA

Abstract: Endogenous growth models raise fundamental questions about the nature of human creativity, and the sorts of resources, skills, and knowledge inputs that shift the frontier of technology and production possibilities. Many argue that the experience of early British industrialization supports the thesis that economic advances depend on specialized scientific training, the acquisition of costly human capital, and the role of elites. This paper examines the contributions of different types of knowledge to industrialization, by assessing the backgrounds, education and inventive activity of major contributors to technological advances in Britain during the crucial period between 1750 and 1930. The results indicate that scientists, engineers or technicians were not well-represented among the cadre of important British inventors, and their contributions remained unspecialized until very late in the nineteenth century. The informal institution of apprenticeship and learning on the job provided effective means to enable productivity and innovation. For developing countries today, the implications are that costly investments in specialized human capital resources might be less important than incentives for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to make incremental adjustments that can transform existing technologies into inventions and innovations that are appropriate for prevailing domestic conditions.