British Economy of the Nineteenth Century; Essays

British Economy of the Nineteenth Century; Essays

British Economy of the Nineteenth Century; Essays

British Economy of the Nineteenth Century; Essays

Excerpt

These essays are unified in two senses. They all concern the British economy over the period 1790-1914, and they represent aspects of an effort to combine the disciplines of economic theory and history. From the limited perspective of the author this is a collection of exercises in method, a fact reflected in the grouping of its chapters.

The period in British economic history from the end of the War of American Independence to the beginning of the First World War lends itself to unified study, in several respects. In the first place, data are available throughout which permit its treatment in fairly uniform analytic terms. The statistics improve as the century wears on, and the Economist is available after 1843. But before that date Tooke, Macpherson, and the Annual Register, as well as the parliamentary papers, make it possible to answer, in first approximation at least, many of the economist's questions. The data are sufficient to treat the years of the French wars with a degree of refinement not very much less than is possible for the decade before 1914. It seemed likely that this might be said, as well, of earlier periods in the eighteenth century; although the data have not yet been so fully mobilized.

Secondly, the period is unified by the fact that it contains the era of British industrialization. The seeds of the Industrial Revolution and of Britain's economic primacy can, of course, be traced several centuries behind 1790; but taking as the standard of demarcation not qualitative similarity of historical process, against which virtually no line of demarcation in history holds up, but, rather, the absolute and relative scale of the quantities involved, then the period around 1790 is a satisfactory point of departure for the study of modern industrial Britain.

Third, despite war and the often cataclysmic developments in various parts of the world which transformed the environment of the British economy, its institutional setting was reasonably constant. With occasional exceptions the . . .

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