The People and the British Economy, 1830-1914

The People and the British Economy, 1830-1914

The People and the British Economy, 1830-1914

The People and the British Economy, 1830-1914

Synopsis

The inspiration for this book comes from the words of Adam Smith: `Consumption is the sole end of and purpose of all production....' This book concentrates, in that spirit, on people rather on things; it describes the overall income and wealth of Britain, its growth, and how that income and wealth was produced by and distributed between different people in the population. Population growth has a central place, as do the changes in home and workplace, in the transformation of the lives of successive generations in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Between 1830 and 1914 Britain became the world's major trading nation, carrier of the majority of the world's goods, by far the largest investor overseas, and the centre of the world's financial system. It was an exceptional time in the history of the country and one to which many look back, even a hundred years later, with nostalgia. This book seeks to describe and assess what was achieved in those eighty-five years.

Excerpt

This book is a personal interpretation of the history of the British economy from 1830 to 1914. It relies, therefore, on the research and writing of many hundreds of economists and historians who have explored every aspect of the Victorian and Edwardian period and who, particularly in the last twenty-five years, have revised many aspects of our knowledge of that period. I have been fortunate to work with many of those historians and economists, in particular in producing collectively The Economic History of Britain since 1700, edited by myself and Deirdre McCloskey, and I have been greatly influenced by their work. They will, I am sure, recognize many of their insights and ideas in this book and will, I trust, pardon the borrowings which I have made and the simplifications which have been necessary.

I am particularly grateful for the research assistance which I have received from Roy Edwards, and for the friendly and helpful criticism of early drafts by Stanley Engerman, Deian Hopkin, Sarah Palmer, and Barry Supple. Oxford University Press has waited patiently while my colleagues at London Guildhall University have helped me to balance the demands of writing and leading a University. My wife, Cynthia, has criticized, questioned, suggested new lines of approach, and stiffened my resolve; she has, as always, my love and gratitude. My children, Lydia and Sarah, have been supportive as ever. Last, I am honoured that Eric Hobsbawm, colleague, friend and one of the greatest of British historians, has allowed me to dedicate this book to him.

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