Was There an ‘Industrious Revolution’ Before the Industrial Revolution? An Empirical Exercise for England, c. 1300-1830

30 Pages Posted: 9 May 2010

See all articles by Robert C. Allen

Robert C. Allen

University of Oxford - Nuffield College; New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 5, 2010

Abstract

It is conventionally assumed that the pre-modern working year was fixed and that consumption varied with changes in wages and prices. This is challenged by the twin theories of the ‘industrious’ revolution and the consumer revolution, positing a longer working year as people earned surplus money to buy novel goods. In this study, we turn the conventional view on its head, fixing consumption rather than labour input. Specifically, we use a basket of basic consumption goods and compute the working year of rural and urban day labourers required to achieve that. By comparing with independent estimates of the actual working year, we find two ‘industrious’ revolutions among rural workers; both, however, are attributable to economic hardship, and we detect no signs of a consumer revolution. For urban labourers, by contrast, a growing gap between their actual working year and the work required to buy the basket provides great scope for a consumer revolution.

Keywords: Consumer Revolution, Cost-of-Living Index, Day Wages, ‘Industrious’ Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Labour Supply, Standard of Living

JEL Classification: J22, J43, N3

Suggested Citation

Allen, Robert C. and Weisdorf, Jacob Louis, Was There an ‘Industrious Revolution’ Before the Industrial Revolution? An Empirical Exercise for England, c. 1300-1830 (May 5, 2010). Univ. of Copenhagen Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 10-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1600726 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1600726

Robert C. Allen

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Jacob Louis Weisdorf (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

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