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In 1851, the Great Exhibition—the first world’s fair in history—was held at Hyde Park in London. The fair made it manifestly clear that Britain was the “workshop of the world.” On display were 100,000 items submitted by no fewer than 14,000 companies, with support provided by around 300 regional committees that had been organized voluntarily.
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Martin Daunton, Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain 1851–1951 (Oxford, 2007), pp. 6–7; J. A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display (New Haven, 1999).
It is instructive to compare the figures above with France and Germany. In raw cotton consumption, France and Germany recorded just 610,000 and 410,000 tons, respectively; in coal production, just 4.4 million and 6.7 million tons; and in motive power produced by steam engines, just 370,000 and 260,000 horsepower. Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700–1850 (New Haven, 2009), p. 476.
François Crouzet, “Toward an Export Economy: British Exports during the Industrial Revolution,” Explorations in Economic History, 17 (1980), pp. 64–65; N. F. R. Crafts, British Economic Growth during the Industrial Revolution (Oxford, 1985), p. 22.
It is difficult to know for certain what percentage of cotton textile exports went to the African market. In the majority of estimates, America and Africa are treated as a single category. But in the case of gingham exports during the mid- and late eighteenth century, it is clear that the West Africa market accounted for a larger share than North America and the plantations in the West Indies. On the other hand, when we look at the export volume of wrought iron and nails between 1750 and 1770, 34% went to North America and 29% to the West Indies, compared to 4% for West Africa, and this trend continued with no major changes in the period from 1775 to 1800. For more on this point, see Joseph E. Inikori, Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 437, 457.
What is noteworthy here is that domestic demand was more than twice as great as overseas demand during the eighteenth century. D. E. C. Eversley, “The Home Market and Economic Growth in England 1750–1780,” E. L. Jones and G. E. Mingay (eds.), Land, Labour and Population in the Industrial Revolution (London, 1967), p. 227. On the importance of London, see E. A. Wrigley, People, Cities and Wealth: The Transformation of Traditional Society (Oxford, 1989), chap. 6. For the consumer revolution, see Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and J. H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge, 1982).
John Styles, “Product Innovation in Early Modern London,” Past and Present 168 (2000).
According to Deane’s estimates, the investment rate in the first half of the eighteenth century was 5% of the national income, increasing to 6% in the second half of the eighteenth century and to 10% by the 1850s. Crafts estimates that the investment rate increased more gradually than Deane: 4% in 1700, 6% in 1760, 7% in 1780, 7.9% in 1801, and 11.7% in 1831. Despite the differences between these two estimates, what is important is that they both show the investment rate increasing continuously. This results from the fact that, as we mentioned earlier, a large amount of fixed capital was not necessary in most industrial sectors in the early period of the Industrial Revolution. Phyllis Deane, “Capital Formation in Britain before the Railway Age,” François Crouzet (ed.), Capital Formation in the Industrial Revolution (London, 1972), pp. 117–118; Crafts, British Economic Growth, p. 73. For examples of commercial capital being converted to industrial capital, see Stanley D. Chapman, “Fixed Capital Formation in the British Cotton Industry, 1770–1815,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 33:2 (1970), p. 249; Stanley D. Chapman, Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 37–39, 57–74.
Joel Mokyr, “Entrepreneurship and the Industrial Revolution in Britain,” Mokyr et al., The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times (Princeton, 2010), p. 185.
Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (Cambridge, 2009); Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy; Gavin Weightman, The Industrial Revolutionaries (New York, 2007); Peter M. Jones, Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands 1760–1820 (Manchester, 2008).
Allen, The British Industrial Revolution, pp. 34 (estimates), 135–144; Phyllis Deane, The First Industrial Revolution (Cambridge, 1965), pp. 154–155.
E. A. Wrigley, Continuity, Chance & Change: The Character of the Industrial Revolution in England (Cambridge, 1988), chap. 3; Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World (Princeton, 2000).
Even though Britain’s fiscal system was the most efficient of its time, even it was severely strained by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. This becomes evident in the pattern of tax receipts. During the eighteenth century, tax receipts generally represented between 8% and 10% of the national income, but during the war, this increased to between 12% and 23%. Thus, between 1802 and 1812, the per capita tax burden on the British was nearly three times that of the French. Martin Daunton, State and Market in Victorian Britain: War, Welfare and Capitalism (London, 2008), pp. 42, 56–57.
François Crouzet, “Wars, Blockade and Economic Change in Europe, 1792–1815,” Journal of Economic History 24:4 (1964), pp. 567–588.
In 1760, for example, about 40% of stock in the Bank of England, the EIC, and the South Sea Company was held by the Dutch. J. F. Wright, “The Contribution of Overseas Savings to the Funded National Debt of Great Britain, 1750–1815,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 50 (1997), pp. 657–674; Larry Neal, “A Tale of Two Revolutions: International Capital Flows 1789–1819,” Bulletin of Economic Research 43:1 (1991).
Daunton, State and Market, pp. 2–3; Martin Daunton, Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain 1700–1850 (Oxford, 1995); Perry Gauci, “Introduction,” Gauci (ed.), Regulating the British Economy 1660–1850 (Aldershot, 2011).
Thanks to these efforts, Britain’s wool industry and wool textile industry developed simultaneously, something that did not happen in Spain or the Netherlands. In the long run, this can be regarded as the starting point for Britain’s transformation from an agricultural state to a commercial and industrial state. D. C. Coleman, The Economy of England 1450–1750 (Oxford, 1977), pp. 52–53, 80–81.
These measures, which were enacted at the request of the British woolen textile manufacturers’ lobby, were mostly aimed at Irish woolen textile manufacturers. Louis M. Cullen, An Economic History of Ireland Since 1660 (London, 1972), p. 34.
C. H. Wilson, England’s Apprenticeship, 1603–1763 (London, 1971), pp. 267–269.
P. K. O’Brien, T. Griffiths and P. Hunt, “Political Components of the Industrial Revolution: Parliament and the English Cotton Textile Industry, 1660–1774,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 44 (1991), pp. 395–423; David Ormrod, The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650–1770 (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 49–51; William Ashworth, “The Intersection of the Industry and the State in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” in Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer, and Peter Dear (eds.), The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation (Amsterdam, 2007), pp. 349–378; Julian Hoppit, “Bounties, the Economy and the State in Britain, 1689–1800,” Gauci (ed.), Regulating the British Economy, pp. 139–160.
According to MacLeod, the number of patent applications started to increase in the 1760s, and the full-fledged use of the patent system began in the 1780s and 1790s. Christine MacLeod, Inventing the Industrial Revolution: The English Patent System, 1660–1800 (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 146, 150.
David J. Jeremy, “Damming the Flood: British Government Efforts to Check the Outflow of Technicians and Machinery, 1780–1841,” Business History Review 51 (1977), pp. 1–34.
Seven of Tucker’s major pamphlets are included in R. L. Schuyler (ed.), Josiah Tucker: A Selection from His Economic and Political Writings (New York, 1931).
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner (eds.), 2 vols. (Oxford, 1976); Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, Mass., 2005); Nicholas Phillipson, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life (New Haven, 2010).
It was not until the 1820s that the doctrine of free trade actually began to gain support. For this topic, see Kenneth Morgan, “Mercantilism and the British Empire, 1688–1815”; Anthony Howe, “Restoring Free Trade: The British Experience, 1776–1873,” Donald Winch and Patrick K. O’Brien (eds.), The Political Economy of British Historical Experience, 1688–1914 (Oxford, 2002).
Bernard Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism 1750–1850 (Cambridge, 1970), p. 135.
P. J. Cain and A. G Hopkins, “The Political Economy of British Expansion Overseas, 1750–1914,” The Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 33:4 (1980); Martin Lynn, “British Policy, Trade, and Informal Empire in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Andrew Porter (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire, Vol. 3: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1999).
Joel Mokyr and John V. C. Nye, “Distributional Coalitions, the Industrial Revolution, and the Origins of Economic Growth in Britain,” Southern Economic Journal 74 (2007); Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, “Political Losers as a Barrier to Economic Development,” American Economic Review 90 (2000), pp. 126–130.
It ought to be noted, however, that political economists held a wide variety of views about free trade. The development of free trade was the product of politics, not of simple intellectual developments. Boyd Hilton, The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1785–1865 (Oxford, 1986); Donald Winch, Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750–1834 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 1–31.
Wrigley, “British Population during the ‘Long’ Eighteenth Century,” Floud and Johnson (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain Vol. I: Industrialisation, 1700–1870, pp. 88–91.
Allen, The British Industrial Revolution, pp. 99, 115.
Quotation found in Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism, p. 147.
Philip Harling, The Waning of “ Old Corruption”: The Politics of Economical Reform in Britain, 1779–1846 (Oxford, 1996).
John Vincent Nye, “The Myth of Free-Trade Britain and Fortress France: Tariffs and Trade in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Economic History 51 (1991).
Anthony Howe, Free Trade and Liberal England 1846–1946 (Oxford, 1997), pp. 70–110.
Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism; John Darwin, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System 1830–1970 (Cambridge, 2009), p. 39.
John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 6 (1953).
Darwin, The Empire Project, pp. 614–642.
Robert Kubicek, “British Expansion, Empire, and Technological Change,” Porter (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire Vol. III: The Nineteenth Century, p. 248.
J. R. Seeley, The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures (London, 1883), p. 72; Daniel Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1981).
Niall Ferguson, Empire (London, 2003), pp. 168–169.
For the most vivid description of the speculation boom that was triggered by the American railroad project, see Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (London, 1875).
Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, p. 245; Michael Edelstein, “Foreign Investment, Accumulation and Empire, 1860–1914,” Roderick C. Floud and Paul Johnson (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, Vol. 2 Economic Maturity, 1860–1939 (Cambridge, 2004), p. 205.
S. B. Saul, The Myth of the Great Depression, 1873–1896 (London, 1969), p. 31.
N. F. R. Crafts, “Long-run Growth,” Floud and Johnson (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, p. 13; see estimates in Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, pp. 170, 175. According to Daunton’s estimates, GDP grew by 2.2% each year between 1856 and 1873 but fell by 1.8% between 1873 and 1913, while total factor productivity fell from 0.6% between 1856 and 1873 to 0% between 1873 and 1913.
Roderick C. Floud, “Britain 1860–1914: A Survey,” Floud and D. N. McCloskey (eds.), The Economic History of Britain since 1700: Vol. 2 1860–1939 (Cambridge, 1981), p. 8.
Jeffrey Fear, “German Capitalism,” Thomas McCraw (ed.), Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions (Cambridge, Mass., 1995).
Nathan Rosenberg, Technology and American Economic Growth (New York, 1972), pp. 59–86; Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977).
Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, pp. 220–222; Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism, paperback ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), p. 250; C. Knick Harley, “Trade, 1870–1939: From Globalisation to Fragmentation,” Floud and Johnson (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, p. 171.
Sidney Pollard, “Capital Exports, 1870–1914: Harmful or Beneficial?” Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 38 (1985), p. 490; Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, p. 245.
Pollard, “Capital Exports, 1870–1914: Harmful or Beneficial?” pp. 500–502; Lance E. Davis and Robert J. Cull, “International Capital Movements, Domestic Capital Markets, and American Economic Growth, 1820–1914,” S. L. Engerman and R. E. Gallman (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the United States Vol. II: The Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2000), p. 735.
Donald N. McCloskey, “Did Victorian Britain Fail?” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 23 (1970).
Bernard Elbaum and William Lazonick, “An Institutional Perspective on British Decline,” Elbaum and Lazonick (eds.), The Decline of the British Economy (Oxford, 1986), pp. 1–17.
Chandler, Scale and Scope, pp. 249–250, 268–294.
In regard to our discussion, a particularly noteworthy point is that the international market supported traditional industries including the cotton textile industry. For example, the international market accounted for 34.7% of cotton textile exports in 1879, but this increased to 51.7% by 1913. Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, p. 222; Cain and Hopkins observe that the empire’s share of Britain’s exports continued to increase at the end of the nineteenth century while exports to other manufacturing states fell, but they also note that exports increased not only in the imperial market but also in states that manufactured primary commodities. P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion 1688–1914 (London, 1993), pp. 167–169.
McCloskey, “Did Victorian Britain Fail?” p. 57.
Pollard, “Capital Exports,” pp. 502–503; N. F. R. Crafts, “Victorian Britain Did Fail,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 32 (1979), p. 537.
P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas, I: The Old Colonial System, 1688–1850,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 39 (1986); P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas, II: The New Imperialism, 1850–1945,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 40 (1987); Cain and Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion 1668–1914.
In addition to Cain and Hopkins, see Martin Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850–1980 (Harmondsworth, 1981). For a criticism of Wiener’s argument, see W. D. Rubinstein, Capitalism, Culture, and Decline in Britain 1750–1990 (London, 1993); F. M. L. Thompson, Gentrification and the Enterprise Culture: Britain 1780–1980 (Oxford, 2001).
Howe, “Restoring Free Trade, 1776–1873,” in Donald Winch and O’Brien (eds.), The Political Economy of British Historical Experience, p. 209.
E. H. H. Green, “Rentiers versus Producers? The Political Economy of the Bimetallic Controversy c. 1880–1898,” English Historical Review 103 (1988), pp. 588–612.
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