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Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850

Author(s):Parthasarathi, Prasannan
Reviewer(s):Mokyr, Joel

Published by EH.Net (January 2012)

Prasannan Parthasarathi, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 365 pp. $30 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-521-16824-3.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Joel Mokyr, Departments of Economics and History, Northwestern University.

The year 2011 was? a banner year for ambitious books that explain what is becoming known as the ?Great Divergence? of the West and the Rest. In addition to the book under review here, two other books by major scholars have appeared: Jean-Laurent Rosenthal and Bin Wong?s Before and Beyond Divergence and Ian Morris?s Why the West Rules for Now. One would have hoped that the proliferation of this literature would perhaps start to converge toward a consensus, but alas, so far discord and confusion reign in this debate. One could call it perhaps ?the small divergence.?

Parthasarathi?s book, its title notwithstanding, is not about ?Asia? and ?Europe? but really about India and Britain. While there are some pages that deal with China and the European Continent, the author clearly is most at ease when writing about the former two countries. Japan makes only an occasional appearance, and the rest of Asia does not figure much. Above all, this book is an argument that the ?California hypothesis? applies to India as well. The California School, most notably embodied in Kenneth Pomeranz?s Great Divergence and Andre Gunder Frank?s Re-Orient, argue that the Chinese economy rather than falling behind from Ming times actually performed admirably until the end of the eighteenth century, and that it was only the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe that (temporarily) gave Europe a big advantage. Parthasarathi?s book makes a similar argument for India. Moghul India, he argues, was not backward, primitive, ignorant, poorly organized, or anything of the kind. As late as 1800 it was technologically sophisticated, scientifically progressive, commercialized with well-working institutions and efficient markets that allowed the Indian economy to work well. Its cottons were in high demand world-wide, and its abilities in a host of other industries were more than respectable.

If everything in India was so good, why was everything so bad? Parthasarathi?s argument depends heavily on his interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution. For him the Industrial Revolution was above all policy-driven. In his interpretation, the Industrial Revolution was the result of deliberate industrial policies by its governments, protecting domestic industry and encouraging import-substitution. What was true for Britain, Parthasarathi continues, was even more true for the Continental countries. Industrial policies shaped the speed and form of economic development. The one country that had as much potential as Belgium or Germany was India. But the British Raj mercilessly pressed their advantage against the hapless Indians, denied them access to the British market, and forced them to buy the cheap cotton products with which Lancashire after 1820 increasingly flooded the Indian market. India was ruled by the British, and they not only did nothing to encourage the development of manufacturing there; they did all they could to obstruct it. The power of states could determine successful economic development and prevent it elsewhere.

The argument is, of course, not new, and much of the evidence that Parthasarathi relies on has been used by other scholars. A notable example of an important essay published more than three decades ago (not cited by Parthasarathi) is Subramanian Swamy?s ?The Response to Economic Challenge: A Comparative Economic History of China and India, 1870-1952? (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1979). Swamy fully anticipates Parthasarathi?s argument: ?The slow industrialization, or at least the lack of rapid industrial growth in India … can, be ascribed to the unwillingness of foreign capital to enter into the basic industries, and to the British Indian Government for placing obstacles in the path of indigenous investment … It was the combination of ?British interests? and the underlying social ethos of the Government of India that they were there ?to govern, to stabilize, and to administer,? but not to transform that proved to be the main cause of India?s slow development? (pp. 37?38).

Yet it is far from clear whether we have fully disposed of ?deep? cultural differences between Asia and Europe. Eight years after Swamy?s paper, Gregory Clark published a famous paper with a disturbing finding, comparing the Indian cotton mills in Bombay to those in Lancashire. He found that although Indian wages were only a sixth of British wages and they were using essentially the same equipment, the Indians had no major cost advantage over their British competitors, because Indian labor?s efficiency was only a fraction of their counterparts in Manchester. Clark left the reasons for this open, but subsequently in A Farewell to Alms he returns to the issue and argues that labor quality was remarkably low in poor countries, because of high absenteeism, poor discipline and similar matters. Whether Clark is right or not, Parthasarathi pays no heed to his work. Perhaps he can show us that low labor productivity can somehow be chalked up to the Raj as well, but until he does, his case is simply unpersuasive.

By blaming the Raj squarely for everything that went wrong with India?s nineteenth century development, Parthasarathi offers us a warmed-up old nationalist chestnut, and his waving at the post-colonial literature does not add much credibility to his case. While he is surely right that one can easily overstate the weaknesses of the Indian economy on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, his cherry-picking of examples (there are only a few tables in the book and only one of them pertains to India) simply does not persuade. Had Britain and India been at the same level of economic and institutional development in 1750, why was there no ?Western Europe Company? set up in Delhi that would have exploited the political divisions within Europe, established an Indian ?Raj? based in London and forced Europe to accept Indian calicoes without tariffs? Moreover, there were Asian nations, from Persia to Siam, which were never controlled by European Imperialists, yet they never seem to have developed much modern industry either. Neither, for that matter, did Imperial China, which poses a logical problem for anyone trying to blame imperialism for economic backwardness in Asia. The case of China is brushed off by Parthasarathi as the result of an ecological disaster due to deforestation and the feckless policies of the Q?ing government which did nothing to encourage the exploitation of Chinese coal deposits. But why would we believe that a counterfactual Indian independent government would have performed like Belgians or Prussians and not more like the Q?ing? To make his case stick, Parthasarathi ought perhaps have argued that India?s society was much like Japan?s, and that in the absence of colonial domination it would have made its own rules work for it. But such arguments are never made, and I suspect for good reason.

Parthasarathi is a learned and well-read historian, and he is no-doubt correct in pointing out that scholars have underrated the vitality and strength of the Indian economy in the eighteenth century. There were enclaves of highly skilled craftsmen and craftswomen in India, and it is easy to overrate the advantage that Britain and Europe enjoyed over Asian countries such as India and China. But in his justifiable indignation over the disrespect shown by ?Eurocentric? scholars to Indian civilization, he lets his rhetoric get the better of him and so hopelessly overstates his case as to undermine the credibility of those corrective elements he provides to the standard story that are most valuable.

First, he exaggerates the role of the British government in the first Industrial Revolution. There was no real industrial policy except for letting the new industrialists do their thing. With a few exceptions such as the Longitude Board, the demand for military hardware and royal dockyards, and running a patent office, the government played a remarkably modest role in fostering the Industrial Revolution. On the Continent this role was clearly larger, but even in Belgium and Prussia, the fact that the government supported and abetted the process does not prove that the government was a ?critical factor? as Parthasarathi repeatedly asserts. What these governments did (far more than Westminster) was to invest in infrastructure or encourage and subsidize others to do so. But this is precisely what the British did in India: they invested in its infrastructure. Lord Dalhousie, governor general of India 1848?56 (never mentioned by Parthasarathi) famously said that he introduced three ?great engines of social improvements?: railways, electric telegraph, and uniform postage (Suresh Chandra Gosh, ?The Utilitarianism of Dalhousie and the Material Improvement of India? in Modern Asian Studies, 1978, p. 97). One might add the Ganges irrigation canal, the brainchild of a single-minded Briton, Colonel Proby Cautley, was a huge success.

The exact dimensions of the impact of the Raj on the Indian economy will remain in dispute. Did the British extinguish an intellectual community comparable in quality and achievements to the one in eighteenth century Europe? We are told (p. 266) that the British colonial order led to a lossof patronage for institutions that produced and diffused knowledge, and that this, presumably, contributed to the decline of science and technology in the entire subcontinent. It is true that some of the libraries collected by Maharajas were dispersed and looted, but it seems implausible that a handful of British officials and soldiers could have wiped out the human capital of a population of close to 200 million people and reduced them from a vibrant intellectual community to a largely illiterate mass. The Indian society that emerged in the nineteenth century, Parthasarathi maintains, was radically different from what was there before. There is no question that there is truth to this argument, and that for much of the nineteenth century the British discouraged the formation of human capital and local centers of technology.

But it is frustrating that so little is known about Indian progress in the pre-Raj era and that the experts differ so much. Indian science and technology was surely not as primitive as contemporary Western observers described, but was it really at a par with Europe as we are told in this book? The complexity of the matter is wholly reflected in the writings of the Indian scholar Dharampal (not cited by Parthasarathi) who conceded that ?It is possible that the various sciences and technologies were on a decline in India around 1750 and, perhaps, had been on a similar course for several centuries previously? but that it was hard to know because of the ?general incommunicativeness of eighteenth century Indian scholars and specialists in the various fields? which may have been due to ?the usual secretiveness of such persons? (http://www.scribd.com/doc/29011033/Dharampal-s-Collected-Writings-Vol-1-5, p. 5, accessed on Dec. 31, 2011). The difference between that kind of insider science and the growth of public science in eighteenth-century Western Europe, which was at the very core of the Industrial Enlightenment, is symptomatic of the weakness of the argument made in this book. At the very least, Parthasarathi seems to fall into the trap of what Deepak Kumar has called ?a naive (perhaps revivalist) appreciation of pre-colonial science and technology.?

Part of the book?s weakness is the author?s very limited and minimalist concept of the Industrial Revolution, which he sees as purely a revolution in cotton and coal. He closely examines one key industry, cotton, and points out that British consumers were exposed to the high-quality, brilliantly colored calicoes coming from India. The Act of 1721 prohibited the importation and wearing of these textiles and thus stimulated British manufacturers to make their own, thus creating powerful incentives for the invention of machinery in the cotton industry. In this way, the British Industrial Revolution was indebted to India. Perhaps, but the Calico Act had quite a few exemptions, and its enforcement was far from water tight. But more to the point, the Industrial Revolution consisted of improvement on a much broader front than India?s example can account for. Thus in the woolen textiles ? never mentioned by Parthasarathi ? the introduction of shearing frames in the finishing stages was completely novel. In many other industries there were critical innovations, some of them the result of unscientific serendipity, but at least in some cases they were related to scientific advances. In cotton, the most famous example is of course chlorine bleaching, but Parthasarathi may also find a new book on the British gaslighting industry instructive (Leslie Tomory, Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry, 1780-1820, MIT Press, 2012). Such examples can be multiplied at will.

In Parthasarathi?s opinion, British coal developed in large part because of the wise policies of the Hanoverian government which regulated prices and protected coastal shipping. They also taxed coal quite heavily, which may not have been such an advantage. But more to the point, British coalmining, from the surveying and viewing stage all the way to the market, was in private hands. So were education, turnpikes, canals, healthcare, railroads, and most law enforcement. There was a fair amount of state regulation, but it is not clear how much of it was actually enforced and what effect it had. The same is true a fortiori for protectionism. The argument that Britain succeeded because of and not despite of the mercantilist policies of the eighteenth century is repeated over and over but never supported with much evidence. The one area in which British government may get some credit (but oddly never mentioned by Parthasarathi) is the Old Poor Law, a unique English institution which may have helped bring about social stability and raised the material quality of life for the bottom third of the income distribution.

This is a polemical book. Parthasarathi criticizes much of the literature on the British Industrial Revolution and its effect on the rest of the world, and often his critiques are well-aimed and deserved. There is no question that the initial differences between Asia and Europe on the eve of the Industrial Revolution have been overdrawn, and that Europe?s success was not quite as predetermined and inexorable as it was made out to be by scholars from Max Weber to David Landes. Yet there is an equal risk to exaggerate in the other direction and to argue that there was no difference whatsoever. More often, Parthasarathi succumbs to the unfortunate habit to take nuanced and subtle arguments of his opponents, oversimplify them into a cartoon, and then energetically proceed to take these strawmen apart; this is a time-honored custom in all rhetoric, but if applied too thickly it can be counterproductive. All in all, this is a provocative and eloquent book that will modify our views of the Great Divergence, if not nearly as much as its author would hope for.

Joel Mokyr is the author of The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850, Yale University Press, (2009).

Copyright (c) 2012 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (January 2012). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity
Economic Planning and Policy
Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Industry: Manufacturing and Construction
Markets and Institutions
Geographic Area(s):Asia
Europe
Time Period(s):17th Century
18th Century
19th Century

The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective

Author(s):Allen, Robert C.
Reviewer(s):Leunig, Tim

Published by EH.Net (February 2011)

Robert C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.? xi + 331 pp. $28 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-521-68785-0.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Tim Leunig, Department of Economic History, London School of Economics.

We all teach topics that are outside the narrow confines of our own research. Textbooks are designed to fill these gaps, but textbooks are balanced by design, and that is not what academia is about. Think of Crafts and McCloskey on whether Victorian Britain failed, or Williamson and Feinstein on inequality. The nature of academia is to argue, and getting that over to students — who have been brought up on a bland diet of textbooks and apparent ?truth? in schools — is one of our jobs.

In this context Robert C Allen?s The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective is a triumph. It is comprehensive, as textbooks should be. But it is not a textbook, even though it looks like one. This is Allen?s view of why it happened, in accessible format. It is easier to follow than Crafts? 1985 classic British Economic Growth during the Industrial Revolution, with which I struggled as a first year undergraduate (and which, looking back, I suspect my teachers understood little better!). And Allen?s book has fewer than half as many words as Mokyr?s The Enlightened Economy, which helps to get students to actually read it.

The Allen view of ?Why Britain?? is well- known, and is essentially the Rothbarth-Habakkuk view: ?wages were remarkably high, and energy was remarkably cheap? (p. 2). Hence the industrial revolution was ?uniquely profitable? in Britain.

Chapter one is a two page summary of the Allen view, followed by a page or so on other approaches — culture, consumerism, property rights, etc. These are seen as necessary, but insufficient — with Europe as evidence.

Chapters 2 to 5 cover the pre-industrial economy. Chapter 2 contains evidence that eighteenth century British workers were rich by international standards. Everyone except Greg Clark will broadly accept this chapter.

It also sets out the Allen approach: lots of tables, numbers, and details. Pages 36-37, for example, contain just four lines of text, with the rest devoted to tables. One has 16 lines of notes, including the grams of protein per egg, given to two decimal places. It is good that students realize the tedium of working things out properly!

Chapter 3 tells the story of agriculture, reversing the standard story that rises in productivity allowed people to leave for the cities: instead high city wages led people to leave, which then led productivity to rise.

Chapter 4 explains the cheap energy economy, in comparative context. It ?was a foundation of Britain?s economic success? and compensated for high wages in international markets.

Chapter 5 brings chapters 2-4 together, in a model of the pre-industrial economy. The model is described in words in the text, with equations in an appendix. Allen has done a good job of being accessible, but it is not an easy read, and — my students tell me — it is only partially successful. To Allen ?0.40 LNTL? where ?LNTL is the logarithm of the land-labour ratio? is straightforward, but this will not be true for all readers. The main text description of how rising demand and population leave wages unchanged will not be easy for straight history students (not helped by the description being on page 113, and the figure overleaf, on page 114), and will be beyond most school students.

Chapters 6 to 11 explain the industrial revolution. Chapter 6 (?Why Was the Industrial Revolution British??) is the core. Just 16 pages (plus an appendix with isoquants, no less) are sufficient to set out the ?prices matter? approach, and apply them briefly to Britain versus China and Britain versus France. If students read only one chapter, it should be this one, and it is a particularly well-written chapter.

Chapters 7, 8 and 9 apply ?prices matter? to steam, cotton and iron respectively. Allen?s genuine understanding of technology stands out. He is not an economist who thinks prices are important and inventions automatic given price ratios. He understands that prices create incentives, but also understands and appreciates — as an historian should — that the hard work of invention and refining is interesting, and is what history is made of. But we expect nothing less of someone who aspires to build a Meccano model of a spinning wheel. There are good descriptions of how inventions and improvements actually came about, and good photographs and schematic diagrams as well.

Chapter 10 is a slightly odd chapter, and is really ?What Bob Allen Thinks of Joel Mokyr?s Ideas,? i.e. that the enlightened economy was necessary, but arguing — using European evidence — that it was insufficient. Chapter 11 is a four page conclusion.

Unfortunately, Cambridge University Press have done a shoddy job in quite a few places: time series charts with no dates on the axis, for example.

Robert Allen, and the Economic History Society that commissioned him, can be proud of this book. It is a good effort and achieves something difficult: being comprehensive and opinionated and readable.

Tim Leunig is co-editor of Explorations in Economic History.? He has written on living standards, the cotton industry and railways in the British industrial revolution.

Copyright (c) 2011 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (February 2011). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extractive Industries
Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity
Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Industry: Manufacturing and Construction
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):17th Century
18th Century
19th Century

Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution

Author(s):Humphries, Jane
Reviewer(s):Tuttle, Carolyn

Published by EH.NET (January 2011)

Jane Humphries, Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution.? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.? xiii + 439 pp. $99 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-521-84756-8.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Carolyn Tuttle, Department of Economics and Business, Lake Forest College.

Jane Humphries of All Souls College at Oxford University masterfully provides a unique look into childhood and child labor during the British Industrial Revolution that has, up until this point, been largely neglected in the literature.? Promoting the view that Britain experienced a ?child-intensive industrial revolution? (p. 207) she places child labor into the private and social worlds of family and community.? Humphries sets out to provide some concrete answers to three areas of debate within the literature — the timing, causes and consequences of child labor.? Her contribution to the first area of controversy, the trends in children?s employment over time, is the weakest.? Whether or not child labor did rise during the Industrial Revolution, as she claims, cannot be gleaned from a collection of individuals at various points in time.? The level of child employment over time is more accurately discerned from employers? records in Factory and Mining Reports.? She does, however, make a significant contribution to the other two areas of continuing debate.? In fact, her findings are seminal and will become a reference for scholars in decades to come.? Identifying the causes of child labor, which has significant implications for developing countries today, has been the subject of considerable research.? Scholars have adequately developed the demand-side argument but have only been able to model the supply-side, lacking evidence on family behavior.? Her insights into the decision-making process of families fill this void and seriously challenge the demand-induced argument.? With death at their doorstep, parents often had no choice but to send their children to work.? And finally, the vivid memories of childhood contained in the autobiographies reveal the physical and psychological consequences of child labor.? The bravery, stoicism and tenacity displayed by the children as they left home to work is both inspiring and disheartening.

This book represents original research that integrates the approaches of historians, economists and sociologists to explain children?s roles in their family, their community and the economy.? Humphries applies this interdisciplinary approach to over 600 autobiographies written by working men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.? Humphries is meticulous in finding and revealing a unique perspective on child labor, ?a view from below? as she calls it (p. 15).? This type of evidence, however, is considered by some scholars an unconventional and controversial source of information.? While it is arguably one of the greatest strengths of this research, others will see it as its greatest weakness.?? Acutely aware of the problems of using autobiographies for data, she convincingly defends their accuracy, relevance and applicability in representing the lives of poor and working-class children during the British Industrial Revolution (Chapter 2).? As she argues, it is a ?gold mine of information on pressures to work, links between family and the labour market, the nature of first jobs, remuneration, apprenticeship and schooling? (p. 6).? Although she admits it is not a random sample, it is also not an unbiased sample because it only represents the lives of literate men.? The absence of girls? experiences and women?s perspectives may taint her later discussion on women?s role in the family (Chapter 3 and 5) and economy (Chapter 4).???

With the information she gleans from pouring over the autobiographies, she supports certain ?truths? in the existing literature and refutes (and revises) others.? Humphries? research lends considerable support to four claims for which there is general consensus.? First, working-class parents sent their children off to work because they were poor and needed the wages of their children to survive (Chapters 3 and 7).? The relationship between children and their parents was altruistic at best and benign at worst (Chapter 5).? The majority of parents were not abusive or alcoholic but simply poor.? Although the reasons for this poverty varied from family to family, the reality of not having enough food on the table did not.? Secondly, the wages children earned were not trivial and made a significant contribution to the family purse (Chapters 7 and 8).? Teenagers were often ?second breadwinners? earning as much as adults.? Third, the occupational distribution of children did change during the Industrial Revolution (Chapter 8).? Although most children were still employed in agriculture, the number of children working in factories was significant and increased during the first part of the nineteenth century (Chapter 8).?? And finally, there was no discernable growth in formal schooling of the working class during this period of industrialization (Chapter 10).? Although many children delighted in opportunities to learn to read, the fact that ?school loomed large in the memories of childhood? (p. 310) may be over-exaggerated in this sample of literate autobiographers.? School enrollment and attendance was low for working-class children.? The few who did go to school skipped during harvest season and left as soon as they were old enough to find a job.? Overall, reality fits the model, the supply of child labor increased because children played an extremely crucial role in family survival during the Industrial Revolution.????????

Equally as important, several of Humphries? conclusions challenge well established views in the literature on the family.? In their place she creates an entirely different version and possibly reveals new ?truths.?? Three in particular deserve mention, two offer insights into the causes of child labor (supply) and the other, the consequences.? The unconventional model of the household that Humphries proposes in this book is both provocative and compelling.? Her research calls into question a longstanding belief of most scholars about the family structure before and during the Industrial Revolution.? Humphries argues that the male breadwinner model better describes working-class families during this period than Tilly and Scott?s ?family economy? and DeVries? ?industrious? household.? She found that families were largely dependent on father?s earnings, women were less likely to work and children were the ?secondary earners in the typical working-class family? (p. 85).? In her sample fewer than half of married women with husbands present were economically active (p. 95).? This finding challenges much of the existing literature that there was an increase in the labor force participation of women during industrialization.? Another surprising conclusion of her research is the high proportion of families that were fatherless or motherless.? Although the traditional family was the most prevalent among the autobiographers, single-headed households were not uncommon.? She found that children exposed to this ?breadwinner frailty? were more likely to end up in precarious situations (workhouses, apprenticeships or factories). The struggles of family survival did not, as the conventional view claims, lead to physical abuse of the most vulnerable members of the family.? Humphries finds that working-class childhood ?was one long empty belly? (p. 97) and ?abuse was distinguished from just chastisement? (p. 134).? Recollected work experiences, moreover, reveal that the physical and emotional damage from working was considerably less than implied by the Factory Commission Reports in 1831-32.? Children experienced the most violence, not in the home or even in the factory, but in private (dame) schools.? Dame schools were unpleasant places of learning.? Teachers were incompetent and often physically abusive.? Children vividly recalled the thrashings by the holly-stick, ebony ruler and cane they received from the school master.?

The strength of the book and its greatest contribution to the literature on child labor is in the presentation and discussion of the qualitative evidence and not the analysis of the quantitative data.? Humphries is extremely effective at revealing the factual and emotional ?richness of the words? from the personal accounts and not as effective in providing a statistical analysis of her sample (which was her original intention).? Her attempt to assemble and analyze quantitative data from the large sample of autobiographies is laudable and the tables on the wages of boys (Table 8.4) and fathers (Table 4.4) across occupations and time are extremely useful.? But the regressions seem to force cliometrics onto the autobiographical information and the results are often not statistically significant.? Although knowing the effects of apprenticeships and schooling on occupational outcomes would have an immeasurable impact on the literature, understanding the factors that determined children?s fate is equally enlightening.

Jane Humphries? book provides an experiential account of childhood during the British Industrial Revolution that is meticulously researched and creatively represented.? She opens the ?black box? of family life and reveals the nature of children?s relationship to parents and siblings, school teachers, masters of apprentices and overseers at factories.? Readers interested in family dynamics, childhood, child labor and education will find the words Humphries chooses captivating and the story the working-class men tell fascinating.? Although some may not appreciate the theoretical and econometric tools used to analyze the life histories, everyone will be captivated by the voices of the children.?

Carolyn Tuttle is the author of Hard at Work in Factories and Mines: The Economics of Child Labor during the British Industrial Revolution (1999).? She has contributed chapters to a recent series on A Cultural History of Childhood and Family (2010) and Child Labour?s Global Past (2011).? tuttle@lakeforest.edu.

Copyright (c) 2011 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (January 2011). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Labor and Employment History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):18th Century
19th Century

Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution

Author(s):Humphries, Jane
Reviewer(s):Tuttle, Carolyn

Published by EH.NET (January 2011)

Jane Humphries, _Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xiii + 439 pp. $99 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-521-84756-8.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Carolyn Tuttle, Department of Economics and Business, Lake Forest College.

Jane Humphries of All Souls College at Oxford University masterfully provides a unique look into childhood and child labor during the British Industrial Revolution that has, up until this point, been largely neglected in the literature. Promoting the view that Britain experienced a ?child-intensive industrial revolution? (p. 207) she places child labor into the private and social worlds of family and community. Humphries sets out to provide some concrete answers to three areas of debate within the literature — the timing, causes and consequences of child labor. Her contribution to the first area of controversy, the trends in children?s employment over time, is the weakest. Whether or not child labor did rise during the Industrial Revolution, as she claims, cannot be gleaned from a collection of individuals at various points in time. The level of child employment over time is more accurately discerned from employers? records in Factory and Mining Reports. She does, however, make a significant contribution to the other two areas of continuing debate. In fact, her findings are seminal and will become a reference for scholars in decades to come. Identifying the causes of child labor, which has significant implications for developing countries today, has been the subject of considerable research. Scholars have adequately developed the demand-side argument but have only been able to model the supply-side, lacking evidence on family behavior. Her insights into the decision-making process of families fill this void and seriously challenge the demand-induced argument. With death at their doorstep, parents often had no choice but to send their children to work. And finally, the vivid memories of childhood contained in the autobiographies reveal the physical and psychological consequences of child labor. The bravery, stoicism and tenacity displayed by the children as they left home to work is both inspiring and disheartening.

This book represents original research that integrates the approaches of historians, economists and sociologists to explain children?s roles in their family, their community and the economy. Humphries applies this interdisciplinary approach to over 600 autobiographies written by working men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Humphries is meticulous in finding and revealing a unique perspective on child labor, ?a view from below? as she calls it (p. 15). This type of evidence, however, is considered by some scholars an unconventional and controversial source of information. While it is arguably one of the greatest strengths of this research, others will see it as its greatest weakness. Acutely aware of the problems of using autobiographies for data, she convincingly defends their accuracy, relevance and applicability in representing the lives of poor and working-class children during the British Industrial Revolution (Chapter 2). As she argues, it is a ?gold mine of information on pressures to work, links between family and the labour market, the nature of first jobs, remuneration, apprenticeship and schooling? (p. 6). Although she admits it is not a random sample, it is also not an unbiased sample because it only represents the lives of literate men. The absence of girls? experiences and women?s perspectives may taint her later discussion on women?s role in the family (Chapter 3 and 5) and economy (Chapter 4).

With the information she gleans from pouring over the autobiographies, she supports certain ?truths? in the existing literature and refutes (and revises) others. Humphries? research lends considerable support to four claims for which there is general consensus. First, working-class parents sent their children off to work because they were poor and needed the wages of their children to survive (Chapters 3 and 7). The relationship between children and their parents was altruistic at best and benign at worst (Chapter 5). The majority of parents were not abusive or alcoholic but simply poor. Although the reasons for this poverty varied from family to family, the reality of not having enough food on the table did not. Secondly, the wages children earned were not trivial and made a significant contribution to the family purse (Chapters 7 and 8). Teenagers were often ?second breadwinners? earning as much as adults. Third, the occupational distribution of children did change during the Industrial Revolution (Chapter 8). Although most children were still employed in agriculture, the number of children working in factories was significant and increased during the first part of the nineteenth century (Chapter 8). And finally, there was no discernible growth in formal schooling of the working class during this period of industrialization (Chapter 10). Although many children delighted in opportunities to learn to read, the fact that ?school loomed large in the memories of childhood? (p. 310) may be over-exaggerated in this sample of literate autobiographers. School enrollment and attendance was low for working-class children. The few who did go to school skipped during harvest season and left as soon as they were old enough to find a job. Overall, reality fits the model, the supply of child labor increased because children played an extremely crucial role in family survival during the Industrial Revolution.

Equally as important, several of Humphries? conclusions challenge well established views in the literature on the family. In their place she creates an entirely different version and possibly reveals new ?truths.? Three in particular deserve mention, two offer insights into the causes of child labor (supply) and the other, the consequences. The unconventional model of the household that Humphries proposes in this book is both provocative and compelling. Her research calls into question a longstanding belief of most scholars about the family structure before and during the Industrial Revolution. Humphries argues that the male breadwinner model better describes working-class families during this period than Tilly and Scott’s ?family economy? and DeVries’ ?industrious? household. She found that families were largely dependent on father?s earnings, women were less likely to work and children were the ?secondary earners in the typical working-class family? (p. 85). In her sample fewer than half of married women with husbands present were economically active (p. 95). This finding challenges much of the existing literature that there was an increase in the labor force participation of women during industrialization. Another surprising conclusion of her research is the high proportion of families that were fatherless or motherless. Although the traditional family was the most prevalent among the autobiographers, single-headed households were not uncommon. She found that children exposed to this ?breadwinner frailty? were more likely to end up in precarious situations (workhouses, apprenticeships or factories). The struggles of family survival did not, as the conventional view claims, lead to physical abuse of the most vulnerable members of the family. Humphries finds that working-class childhood ?was one long empty belly? (p. 97) and ?abuse was distinguished from just chastisement? (p. 134). Recollected work experiences, moreover, reveal that the physical and emotional damage from working was considerably less than implied by the Factory Commission Reports in 1831-32. Children experienced the most violence, not in the home or even in the factory, but in private (dame) schools. Dame schools were unpleasant places of learning. Teachers were incompetent and often physically abusive. Children vividly recalled the thrashings by the holly-stick, ebony ruler and cane they received from the school master.

The strength of the book and its greatest contribution to the literature on child labor is in the presentation and discussion of the qualitative evidence and not the analysis of the quantitative data. Humphries is extremely effective at revealing the factual and emotional ?richness of the words? from the personal accounts and not as effective in providing a statistical analysis of her sample (which was her original intention). Her attempt to assemble and analyze quantitative data from the large sample of autobiographies is laudable and the tables on the wages of boys (Table 8.4) and fathers (Table 4.4) across occupations and time are extremely useful. But the regressions seem to force cliometrics onto the autobiographical information and the results are often not statistically significant. Although knowing the effects of apprenticeships and schooling on occupational outcomes would have an immeasurable impact on the literature, understanding the factors that determined children?s fate is equally enlightening.

Jane Humphries? book provides an experiential account of childhood during the British Industrial Revolution that is meticulously researched and creatively represented. She opens the ?black box? of family life and reveals the nature of children?s relationship to parents and siblings, school teachers, masters of apprentices and overseers at factories. Readers interested in family dynamics, childhood, child labor and education will find the words Humphries chooses captivating and the story the working-class men tell fascinating. Although some may not appreciate the theoretical and econometric tools used to analyze the life histories, everyone will be captivated by the voices of the children.

Carolyn Tuttle is the author of _Hard at Work in Factories and Mines: The Economics of Child Labor during the British Industrial Revolution_ (1999). She has contributed chapters to a recent series on _A Cultural History of Childhood and Family_ (2010) and _Child Labour?s Global Past_ (2011). tuttle@lakeforest.edu.

Copyright (c) 2011 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (January 2011). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Labor and Employment History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):18th Century
19th Century

The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850

Author(s):Mokyr, Joel
Reviewer(s):Harley, C. Knick

Published by EH.NET (December 2010)

Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. xii + 564 pp. $45 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-300-12455-2.

Reviewed for EH.Net by C. Knick Harley, Department of Economics, University of Oxford.

In this big book Joel Mokyr provides a masterful summary of our current understanding of events from the Glorious Revolution to the Great Exhibition that led to the emergence of modern economic growth in Britain. The book advances the thesis that ?the Industrial Revolution … that placed technology in the position of the main engine of economic change? (p. 5) was driven by ?the changing set of beliefs we associate with the Enlightenment? (p. 478). Although there is little new primary research in the book, its broad summary of relevant topics and recent research (the references run to 43 pages) make it both an unrivaled introduction to this important historical topic and a masterful synthesis that experts will need to internalize.

The coverage of the literature, both in breadth and depth, is close to comprehensive. As one would expect from Mokyr?s recent work, there is extensive discussion of the social basis of knowledge, technology and the nature of inventors and the sources of their training and inspiration. There are admirable and balanced discussions of eighteenth-century British society. Issues of the nature of the political structure, its evolution and its impact on incentives to economic action are presented in a comprehensive and balanced manner. There are excellent chapters on gender and the family and civil society, as well as more expected chapters on agriculture, international trade, commerce and finance. The book does not use estimates of aggregate output and its composition as the center of its focus but these issues are well-discussed as part of a wider narrative. The development of industry and industrial technology receives rather less attention than one might have expected and the cotton textile industry does not take a point at the center of the focus. Nonetheless, the reader will have a good overview of the relevant developments in industrial technology.

Mokyr is happy to keep the Industrial Revolution as the focus of his narrative, although it is perhaps significant that the phrase does not appear in the title. Just what he means by the Industrial Revolution is at times somewhat unclear. Overall, the volume consciously takes the entirety of the years from 1700 to 1850 as its focus. Nonetheless, from time to time, the shorter Industrial Revolution (implicitly, say, 1770 to 1830) appears as pivotal in the transformation, although reasons why the impact of these years took time to materialize are stressed. Overall, however, the book emphasizes what distinguished the Industrial Revolution from other episodes of technological preciosity was not so much the accomplishments of a short period of technological effervescence but the emergence of a society in which knowledge and technological progress continued to improve. This was a social process that emerged over a long historical process.

But what of the idea of the Industrial Enlightenment? This idea serves as Mokyr?s organizing principal throughout the book (in the book?s twenty chapters, the word Enlightenment or Enlightened — with a capital letter — appears in five chapter titles, in the first sentence of an additional three and elsewhere in the first paragraph of another four) and is seen as a prime mover in social change that caused the Industrial Revolution at a fundamental level. Unfortunately, the meaning of Enlightenment in this context remains somewhat elusive. It is clearly intended to allude to the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment but Mokyr stresses he does not have in mind direct causation from the world of ideas that characterized the salons of the Enlightenment, although ideas did permeate. The Industrial Enlightenment in Mokyr?s usage means a society in which there predominated a frame of mind that believed in progress attained through useful knowledge gained by observation and experimentation — and incorporated into social and political ideas of rational reform. His book persuasively demonstrates that these ideas were central to economic change in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. The reader cannot, however, help wondering if causation from Enlightenment, as an intellectual stance, to economic change actually existed. The so-called Industrial Enlightenment seems almost to describe the nature of successful change at least as much as its cause. The world of ideas and the world of practical knowledge probably reinforced one another and both reflected some underlying characteristics of the society. Making the Enlightenment, however, so dominantly the central organizing theme of the discussion of economic change is not always persuasive and is intrusive at times.

The book is not fully persuasive in its argument that an Industrial Enlightenment that was particular to Britain should take pride of place in understanding the emergence of modern economic growth in the eighteenth century, but it makes a strong case for the view that an understanding of that change requires a long perspective and that the history of ideas and their place in society needs to be at the core of the story. Persistent change depended on continued technological advance which in turn depended on knowledge and the process by which it developed.

Overall this is an important book. It will provide students with an unexcelled overview of the state of the literature at the moment.? Specialists will admire its sweep of scholarship and find many insights to ponder.?

C. Knick Harley has written extensively about the Industrial Revolution and the nature of technical change.

Copyright (c) 2010 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (December 2010). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity
Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
History of Technology, including Technological Change
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):18th Century
19th Century

Regulating Health and Safety in the British Mining Industries, 1800-1914

Author(s):Mills, Catherine
Reviewer(s):Rogers, Donald

Published by EH.NET (August 2010)

Catherine Mills, Regulating Health and Safety in the British Mining Industries, 1800-1914. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010. xxvi + 284 pp. $115 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-7546-6087-3.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Donald Rogers, Department of History, Central Connecticut State University.?

Catherine Mills, lecturer at Stirling University, England, has meticulously chronicled the legislative and bureaucratic growth of British government?s intervention into mine safety and health during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.? Her book draws upon a large corpus of Parliamentary papers and annual mine inspection reports, as well as newspapers, periodicals, archives and a broad reading of the historical secondary literature.? Importantly, it examines both the coal and the metal mining sectors, constructing its narrative in line with recent theories of Victorian-era British state development. [1]? Specifically, Mills revises historian Oliver MacDonagh?s notable 1958 model, arguing that British regulatory expansion was not simply a logical, if ?phased? response to industrialization (pp. 4-5), but an ?accumulative? and ?ad hoc? (p. 126) process shaped by political, technological and economic factors.

Regulating Health and Safety presents a vivid description of the dreary realities of nineteenth-century British coal and metal mining work, supplemented by a glossary of mining terms and sketches of work conditions and safety apparatus.? It thoroughly surveys floods, roof falls, explosions, hookworm disease, dust-induced respiratory ailments and other hazards that endangered miners, and it excels at explaining the technological innovations devised to remedy them.? In one fresh insight, the book reveals how falls into or climbs out of deep shafts emerged as a particular problem during the 1800s, when economic expansion pushed mines deeper underground.? Terrific on mining conditions, the book does not systematically explore mining operations from a business point of view, leaving unclear how the business development of mining affected working conditions one way or the other.?

The book focuses on the political response to mining hazards, starting with coal mining.? Skipping over the potential impact of tort law (and the fellow-servant rule), Mills contends much like other recent political accounts that mid-nineteenth-century British government (Home Office and Parliament) was a reluctant intervener into mining problems due to the influence of mining interests and doubts about government?s regulatory authority, but that it allowed incremental regulatory expansion through piecemeal legislation.? With rich detail (though regretfully without a map), Mills traces how moralistic Victorian reformers, coal mine unions, government investigatory commissions and mine inspectors cumulatively exerted pressure on British government for action.? Attention focused first on visible risks like explosions, but then broadened as authorities documented other hazards.? The result was a series of increasingly tough laws culminating with the 1872 Coal Mines Act that assigned clear responsibility for safety and health to mine management and stipulated specific mine safety rules.

In an important new finding, Mills demonstrates that metal mining had a much less positive regulatory history, contrary to MacDonagh?s model of inevitable governmental intervention.? Unlike coal mining, she maintains, a metal mine reform coalition never materialized, mining interests blocked early reform proposals, and the eventual 1872 Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act just imitated coal mining laws with little effect.? Why was this?? Concentrated in Cornwall, she argues, metal mining was a smaller and less visible sector than coal mining, and more importantly, its tradition of worker independence and the individualistic ?bargain? system of employment (pp. 213-214) discouraged the unionization that arose in coal mines.? After metal mines declined in the late-1800s, Mills adds, metal miners colluded with financially-stressed mine managers ?to defy the law and engage in unsafe practices? (p. 230), an arrangement abetted by mine inspectors? ??softly softly? approach? to regulation (p. 232), likely to avoid bankrupting struggling firms.

Mills assigns an important role to scientific knowledge in mine safety regulation?s development, but argues that it was a ?malleable? influence, rather than a ?natural? culmination of regulatory growth as the MacDonagh model hypothesizes (p. 183).?? Of course, she shows, science informed many early mine safety measures from safety lamps to ?man-hauling? equipment, but new precautions often had unsafe side effects and erroneous science stymied efforts to resolve coal dust explosions and miners? phthisis (silicosis).? Only after modern research techniques appeared in the late-1800s, did British mining regulation mature into an effectual science-based system.

A major change in the Home Office?s disposition toward mining regulation during the late-1800s facilitated that development, Mills contends.? The Home Office now moved ?without prompting? toward greater intervention (p. 186), as British leaders grew concerned about national economic decline and the labor force?s apparently deteriorating health.? This observation just hints at the British Victorian state?s larger reorientation at the end of the 1800s, when urban-industrial growth and mass electoral reform generated a broad new acceptance of government?s economic duties among elite politicians.

Mills concludes that British mining health and safety regulation was partially successful.? Presenting information from Royal Commissions and mine inspection reports in several charts and graphs, she indicates that coal and metal mining both started the century very dangerously, but adds that coal mining fatalities dropped steadily after passage of the 1872 Coal Mines Act, while metal mine deaths declined minimally, despite the 1872 metalliferous law.? Her book is less convincing on the Coal Act?s apparent success than on the Metalliferous Act?s ineffectiveness.? It is plausible to infer that the rigorous 1872 coal law caused the fatality rate?s reduction, because the drop immediately followed the 1872 measure, but the book lacks direct evidence.? In the American setting, scholars have contended that a mix of business, technological and regulatory forces lowered accident levels, and some emphasize industry?s own managerial and technological innovations.[2]? It might well be asked here how internal British coal industry developments affected mortality levels and how much in that context state intervention mattered.?

Overall, Regulating Health and Safety offers a compelling portrait of nineteenth-century British coal and metal mining, and a richly informative narrative of the inside politics that brought regulation about.? It should be helpful to economists wanting to know more about British mining, working conditions and regulatory politics in the nineteenth century.

Notes:
1. Philip Harling, ?The State,? in A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Britain, ed. by Chris Williams (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 110-124.
2. Mark Aldrich, Safety First:? Technology, Labor and Business in the Building of American Work Safety, 1870-1939 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

Donald Rogers is adjunct instructor of history at Central Connecticut State University and Housatonic Community College in the United States.? He is author of Making Capitalism Safe:? Work Safety and Health Regulation in America, 1880-1940 (2009). rogersdo@ccsu.edu
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Copyright (c) 2010 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (August 2010). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extractive Industries
Government, Law and Regulation, Public Finance
Labor and Employment History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):19th Century
20th Century: Pre WWII

Empire and Globalization: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c. 1850?1914

Author(s):Magee, Gary B.
Thompson, Andrew S.
Reviewer(s):Michie, Ranald

Published by EH.NET (August 2010)

Gary B. Magee and Andrew S. Thompson, Empire and Globalization: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c. 1850?1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xx + 291 pp. $32 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-521-72758-7.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Ranald Michie, Department of History, University of Durham.

There is a recent fashion developing in the writing of economic history. That is to refer to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8 and the need to re-examine the operation of impersonal markets. This has created opportunities for those who have long been skeptical of the idea that markets were the product of forces beyond the influence of mankind. Instead, markets are seen as human constructs prone to irrationality and abuse. Applied to the 50+ years before 1914, the first age of globalization, this leads to the recognition that empires were a key feature of that time, with much of the world belonging to one European power or another. These varied between the land masses of Russia and Austria/Hungary to the maritime possessions of Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. The existence of these imperial domains meant that the mass movement of people, goods and capital that took place at that time was not simply the random product of global economic integration but a process influenced by culture, politics and individual behavior. In this book the focus is on the creation of the British World, by which is meant that sub-set of the British Empire largely settled by British migrants, namely Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Such an approach does create problems as this was not a self-contained unit while the position of an ex-member, the United States of America, is never fully clarified. Nevertheless, this approach does provide the authors, respectively an economic historian and an imperial historian, with a mechanism through which the process of globalization can be examined. Though there are a number of original contributions within this study, reflecting the research conducted by the authors, the material used for this is largely derived from an extensive reading of the work of others, including that of this reviewer.
?
From this approach the British world emerges as a complex interconnected one involving multiple points of contact and circuits of exchange. Though Britain occupied a place at the center of this world there was no official direction and many of the currents bypassed it. Instead, this was a world unified through a shared identity, a common language, and the security provided by Britain?s military power.? Those who peopled it saw themselves as British even if they were no longer resident in that country or had been born there.? For this reason not all the inhabitants of those countries possessed this shared identity, especially the native races. In many ways this was an unstable world reliant on constant migration to and from Britain in order to reinforce this common identity. Between 1850 and 1914 an estimated 13.4 million emigrated from the British Isles with around 40 percent returning either permanently or temporarily. Though the greatest single stream went to the United States their presence there was swamped by both those long settled and those from a diversity of other countries. In contrast, these British migrants in the settler countries of the Empire were a major presence, while their letters, remittances and visits helped maintain strong links with family remaining in the UK. It is the study of this migration that lies at the heart of this book for its consequences are then traced in terms of consumption habits and the funding of investment.

As so many of those who lived in the settler countries of the Empire were British or of British origin their consumer tastes were easily satisfied by goods imported from Britain. However, this did not make these countries captive markets for British manufacturers. Other manufacturing nations soon seized the opportunity to sell goods in these markets, especially when they were better placed than British producers, as was the case with U.S. and Canada. Of even more importance was the growth of local manufacturing as it was better attuned to the changing needs of the population, as the example of beer shows. The conclusion drawn from this is that British industry did possess initial advantages in selling to these markets because of cultural affinity but only held onto them by remaining competitive in terms of price, product, distribution and marketing.? The rising proportion of British goods sold to these countries represented not a retreat into soft imperial markets by British industry but the ability of these countries to purchase more goods because of rising per capita income.? This section of the book contributes further to the rehabilitation of the once-maligned British manufacturing sector, especially as it reveals the great variety of products that it was supplying to distant markets.

The other consequence of this migration was to generate investment flows from Britain to these countries.? This was not just because of the flow of funds from a country where the returns to savers and investors were low to ones where they were high, because of conditions of supply and demand. What is examined in great detail is the role played by information flows in creating a climate in which British investors were favorably inclined to place their money in these countries. Evidence of a home bias among investors has been long known and the way the settler economies were perceived brought them within that. In addition, the degree of ongoing personal contact between Britain and these settler economies created openings for profitable investment by lowering the risks involved. This is something I explored in an article written thirty years ago and it is flattering to find it developed so expertly today!? The authors also extend this aspect of their study by looking at institutional links. British life insurance companies extended their operations to these countries as they followed their customers abroad and that also made them familiar with locally available investment opportunities.? Though there was a division between British domestic and overseas banking this did not extend to personnel, thus providing important contacts at that level.? What all this provides is a rational explanation for the imperial bias among British investors while being aware that other destinations were also of great importance, such as Argentina and, especially, the U.S.

What empires delivered before 1914 was a force for economic integration that placed flows of people, goods and money into particular channels. This is well argued though it must always be recognized that it did not preclude other flows as, for example, both the U.S. and the independent countries of Latin America were major participants in all these. However, this study goes beyond the economic by stressing the cultural dimensions of the British World. This is significant as Britain fought two world wars in the twentieth century based on this shared cultural identity and, arguably, owed its eventual victory to it as much as to the support of the U.S.? As the migration flows that bound these countries together faded after the 1950s so did this British World. By then, though, this British World was already in decline as the constituent countries forged their own identities, greatly influenced by the policies followed by their own governments.

Ranald Michie, University of Durham, is a specialist on modern financial history. His most recent publications are The Global Securities Market: A History (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Guilty Money: The City of London in Victorian and Edwardian Culture (Pickering and Chatto, 2009)

Copyright (c) 2010 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net). Published by EH.Net (August 2010). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

Subject(s):Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Financial Markets, Financial Institutions, and Monetary History
Historical Demography, including Migration
International and Domestic Trade and Relations
Markets and Institutions
Geographic Area(s):General, International, or Comparative
Europe
Time Period(s):19th Century
20th Century: Pre WWII

Integrazione internazionale e sviluppo interno: Stati Uniti e Italia nei programmi di riarmo del blocco atlantico 1945-1955 [International Economic Integration and Home Growth: The United States and Italy in the Western Bloc Rearmament Programs 1945-1955]

Author(s):Selva, Simone
Reviewer(s):Martinez Oliva, Juan Carlos

Published by EH.NET (April 2010)

Simone Selva, Integrazione internazionale e sviluppo interno: Stati Uniti e Italia nei programmi di riarmo del blocco atlantico (1945-1955) [International Economic Integration and Home Growth: The United States and Italy in the Western Bloc Rearmament Programs, 1945-1955]. Rome: Carocci, 2009. 383 pp. ?40 (paperback), ISBN: 978-88-430-5253-0.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, Department for Structural Economic Analysis, Bank of Italy.

This book examines the economic and political relationship between Italy and the United States from the start of postwar reconstruction until the mid-fifties. The complex events characterizing those crucial years are depicted in the light of the rearmament program following the establishment of the North Atlantic alliance in 1949. The analysis highlights the main steps of the process of integration of Italy into the international economy and the strategy pursued by national authorities to trigger a successful growth process. To this end the author makes use of a broad amount of archival evidence from a large number of national and international sources.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first considers the link between the defense strategy of the U.S. and the industrial policy in the countries involved, particularly regarding its impact on productive capacity and aggregate demand in domestic markets. The growing worry that the military objectives of the rearmament plan could be in conflict with the goal of achieving stronger growth and investment in Europe initially brought about a separation of military and non-military expenditures, and of corresponding financial resources.

The second chapter analyzes the impact of rearmament as an engine of growth, starting from the institution of the Medium Term Defense Program (MDAP) in 1949, tailored to not interfere with the European Recovery Program (ERP). In the following years, however, this stance was replaced by one of larger support of European military production to the end of reinforcing Atlantic defense goals. Growing political pressure by the Europeans followed, aimed at achieving stronger U.S. support of the external and domestic imbalances created by costly military expenditure.

The third chapter moves to the policy of military foreign aid to Italy in the initial period of Atlantic alliance. Following the gradual shift from British to U.S. involvement in Italian military defense, Italy’s manufacturing sector progressively enhanced its role in producing military supplies, while nonetheless meeting financial constraints which were only partially alleviated by U.S. foreign assistance. The outbreak of the Korean conflict, with its heavy impact on international commodity prices, threatened the recovery outlook of Italian economy, thus inducing Italian authorities to use U.S. military aid as a means to alleviate the negative effects of the war on internal prices and production.

The fourth chapter discusses the impact of the 1947 Peace Treaty on the Italian aeronautical industry. The involvement of some major industrial groups in the attempt to boost and reinforce Italian productivity and exports testifies to the authorities’ continuing aim to achieve growth and stability in the fifties. During that period complex negotiations were carried out by the Italian government with the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), NATO, and the U.S. Department of State. A special role was played by the Off-Shore Procurements (OSP), which were orders for military items produced in Europe and destined for the armed forces of the producing countries or to those of their NATO partners. As one of the most relevant playing fields of the diplomatic dialogue between the U.S. and European partners, the OSP can be viewed as a relevant indicator of the complex interplay of the different policy objectives of the partners involved.

Particularly interesting is the description, in the fifth chapter, of the interaction between the OSP to the Italian aeronautical industry in 1953-54 and the political negotiations associated with relevant issues characterizing Italian postwar reconstruction such as the territorial question of Trieste, threatened by the Yugoslavian claims; the balance of payments difficulties experienced by Italy within the EPU following the almost total removal of trade barriers; and the U.S. preoccupations arising from the 1953 general elections in Italy.

The final chapter covers the years 1954-55. It is shown that in this period financial assistance to Italy, mostly represented by the OSP, became more strictly tied to the political objective of fighting communism in Italy. This orientation, started in 1954, was strongly supported by U.S. Ambassador Claire Luce, largely as a response to the unfavorable electoral results in the previous year. Quite interestingly, in that period the fight against unemployment became a top priority of U.S. foreign policy in Italy, and particular attention was paid to the task of improving the economic conditions of the Italian Mezzogiorno. The focus on prosperity as a means to counter communism, so closely resembling the original flavor of Truman doctrine, paved the way for a number of financial initiatives in favor of Italy in mid-fifties.

Simone Selva’s book once again confirms the Italian authorities’ ability to reconcile the country’s internal targets with its commitment with partner countries and allies throughout the fifties and the sixties [see Cavalieri and Martinez Oliva (2009)]. The commitment of the Italian authorities to a system based on Atlantic cooperation remained in place in spite of occasional difficulties. This allowed the achievement of the full-fledged integration of the country into the international environment, and the realization of the Italian ?economic miracle? of the 1950s and 1960s.

Simone Selva has carried out a very helpful investigation into a particular aspect of complex Italian-American relations in the years of Europe’s postwar recovery. The huge number of documents quoted testifies that there is still plenty of material for new research on issues related to the cold-war diplomacy of the early years of Italian Republican history. Recent decades have shown a growing interest of Italian historians in that particular period under a large number of viewpoints. Selva’s book is a further contribution to better knowledge of those years and worth reading for those who want to have a closer look at a very crucial juncture of Italian economic and political history.

Reference:

Elena Cavalieri and Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, “Between National Interest and International Cooperation: Italy and the Bretton Woods System in the 1960s” in: H. James and J.C. Martinez Oliva (editors), International Monetary Cooperation across the Atlantic, Adelmann GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 2009.

Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva is a Principal Director in the Department for Structural Economic Analysis of the Bank of Italy. His research work includes various contributions in international economics and economic history, among which are “Too Much for One Country: The United States and the Bretton Woods System, 1958-1971″ (with Harold James) in: H. James and J.C. Martinez Oliva (editors), International Monetary Cooperation Across the Atlantic (2009) and ?The Italian Stabilization of 1947: Domestic and International Factors,? Institute of European Studies, Paper 070514, University of California, Berkeley, 2007. He can be reached at: juancarlos.martinezoliva@bancaditalia.it.

Subject(s):Military and War
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914

Author(s):Alborn, Timothy
Reviewer(s):Murphy, Sharon Ann

Published by EH.NET (January 2010)

Timothy Alborn, Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. xi + 439 pp. $80 (cloth), ISBN: 978-1-4426-3996-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Sharon Ann Murphy, Department of History, Providence College.

Despite being one of the largest and most successful industries of the nineteenth century, life insurance has been woefully understudied by economic and business historians on both sides of the Atlantic. In Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914, history professor Timothy Alborn of Lehman College, City University of New York, fills this gaping void with a carefully argued and immensely readable monograph on the British industry. As the title suggests, Alborn?s work is much more than a straightforward narrative history of British life insurance. Rather, he couples a general overview of the industry with a detailed examination of how life insurance concurrently shaped and reflected the complicated Victorian understanding of human life; for insurers, the individuality of life and the tragedy of death (a sympathetic view of life) coexisted with the more detached, scientific evaluation of an individual?s risk for premature death (a medical view of life), the statistical calculation of the chances of death according to unfeeling mortality tables (a numerical view of life), and the somewhat disquieting process of placing a money value on those lives (a commodified view of life). Although British life insurers sought to balance these four conceptions of life by carefully controlling how agents, actuaries, and doctors presented life insurance to the consuming public, as Alborn concludes, ?the regulated lives who bought insurance policies always resisted complete commodification, enumeration, or medicalization, by holding life insurance offices to their initial promise of sympathy and by playing these different manifestations of modernity against one another? (p. 7).

The first third of the book is devoted to providing a brief sketch of the British life insurance industry over the course of the long nineteenth century. Chapter 1 details the geographic spread of insurance from the London core out to the English countryside and into Scotland, and then its export both to the British Empire and into foreign countries. Whereas these firms began by concentrating on an aristocratic clientele, new competitors emerged to target first the middle class and then eventually a working-class pool, with some offices further segmenting the market by profession, religious denomination, or other definable group characteristic. Finally, this chapter describes the basic business structure of life firms. Chapter 2 charts the growth of the industry, the government?s various attempts to regulate the conduct of companies (mainly in response to failing firms), and the industry?s efforts at self-regulation. In chapter 3, the internal structure of insurers is broken down, with detailed descriptions of the key personnel: shareholders, directors, actuaries, and salesmen. Of particular interest in these chapters is the contrast in conduct between English and Scottish life offices. Alborn readily admits that this overview is not comprehensive; he has carefully selected those aspects of the history most pertinent to his wider story, and future researchers should use this sketch as the starting-point for deeper analysis of the industry.

For the remainder of the book, Alborn focuses on his main theme of how insurers and the insuring public reconciled their understanding of the meaning of human life with the depersonalized and sometimes cold-hearted process of obtaining a life policy. Through a series of topically-themed chapters, Alborn moves from the problems of accurately calculating and using mortality tables (Chapter 4), and the marketing of insurance through melodramatic pleas for the protection of widows and orphans, more dispassionate appeals to the needs of debtors, or the capitalistic desires for investment opportunities (Chapters 5 and 6), to the development of new insurance products (e.g., endowment and paid-up policies, or loans and non-forfeiture clauses) in response to consumer demands (Chapter 7), and the numerous contradictions involved in medically selecting lives and preventing adverse selection (Chapters 8, 9, and 10). Along the way, Victorian views of women, marriage, domesticity, class, health, and death are all brought into sharp relief. In these chapters, Alborn is at his best when connecting the various aspects of the insuring process with wider themes of display, discipline/accountability, fairness, altruism, and gatekeeping. For example, he provides a wonderful description of how companies mastered the art of spectacle in preparing and presenting dividends to their shareholders or mutual customers. Part of this section includes a fascinating vignette on the complicated process of preparing the bonus, providing the reader with a rare detailed glimpse at the internal functioning of a business office (pp. 182-84).

The shortcomings of this book are relatively minor. One of the tradeoffs of dividing the chapters by topic is a loss of chronological structure. While most chapters provide a sense of change over time, it is difficult for the reader to overlap these chapters to obtain a dynamic understanding of the evolution of the industry as a whole. While Alborn perhaps intended for the first three chapters to provide this structure, they do not create a sufficient superstructure for this purpose. Second, while the views of actuaries, agents, and doctors are well-documented, the voice of the insuring consumer is largely absent, appearing only as reflected by the firms themselves. More direct evidence of the applicant?s perspective on life, death, the insuring process, medical selection, fairness, etc., certainly would have strengthened Alborn?s overall argument.

As Alborn concludes, ?an emblem of Victorian domesticity, life insurance took its place at the middle-class hearthside next to the dog-eared Dickens novel and the purring Persian cat? (p. 306). By interweaving business with the wider social context of Victorian Britain, Alborn successfully captures the centrality of life insurance over the long nineteenth century. While it is certainly invaluable for its insights into British life insurance (especially when read alongside Geoffrey Clark?s Betting on Lives: The Culture of Life Insurance in England, 1695-1775. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), Regulated Lives should be read by anyone interested in the business culture of nineteenth-century Britain.

Sharon Ann Murphy is the author of Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press in 2010.

Subject(s):Social and Cultural History, including Race, Ethnicity and Gender
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):20th Century: Pre WWII

Triumph of the South: A Regional Economic History of Early Twentieth Century Britain

Author(s):Scott, Peter
Reviewer(s):Wardley, Peter

Published by EH.NET (October 2009)

Peter Scott, Triumph of the South: A Regional Economic History of Early Twentieth Century Britain. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007. xiv + 324 pp. ?65 (cloth), ISBN: 978-1-84014-613-4.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Peter Wardley, Department of History, University of the West of England, Bristol.

In the Triumph of the South, Peter Scott, Director of the Centre for International Business History and Professor at the University of Reading, has drawn upon his research into specific aspects of interwar British economic and social history to provide an overview of regional development between 1870 and 1939. Scott?s investigations, that have utilized neglected or under-utilized sources, encompass the origins of British regional policy, private sector industrial estates, the nature of the English property market and its agencies, working class house-ownership, hire purchase, and the institutional barriers that impeded transport rationalization in both the coal mining industry and the coal carrying trade undertaken by British railway companies. At the heart of this study are chapters informed by this research that describe and analyze dynamic components of the interwar British economy: the new manufacturing industries of Greater London, the labor market that characterized the interwar industrial estates, and the long distance migration of workers recruited to the new factories. By contrast to vibrant industrial development in the ?South,? the manufacturing sector of depressed ?outer-Britain? experienced only limited innovation; relatively few new plants were established, the expansion of employment in the factories associated with the ?New Industries? was relatively small and their labor productivity was relatively low. Oddly, given the clearly demonstrated relative advantage of the ?South? in the provision of services, and the relative importance of these activities in both the region?s prosperity and economic expansion, apart from tourism the services sectors receive relatively little attention. For example, to select one specific dimension of change, whereas much is made of the failure to embrace technical innovation exhibited by the ?old staples,? and especially the coal industry, no mention is made of the comprehensive implementation of mechanization undertaken by British financial companies at the end of the 1920s. Furthermore, not only is the measurement of productivity growth in services presented here as a more problematic exercise than recent research has demonstrated but the early twentieth century domestic service sector is described as ?a very large employer, with very limited potential for productivity gains? (p. 24). In the context of this study, this is somewhat odd: if this were so in the interwar years, what then was the motive of those who purchased the millions of household appliances produced on the industrial estates so carefully enumerated here?

Scott?s authoritative treatment of the aspects of the interwar years he has so closely researched also stands in contrast with his less convincing consideration of the longer run historical context. The introductory chapters demonstrate a range of basic problems that are conceptual and definitional in kind, reflecting geo-political and economic ambiguities that could lead astray a more naive reader. It would have been useful to indicate very clearly that ?Britain? in this period is a political fiction as the functioning state was the ?United Kingdom,? a union of Britain and Ireland before 1921 and Britain and Northern Ireland after. In this book England gets the lion?s share of attention, Scotland some consideration, Wales little and Ireland none. This constrained perspective has broader analytical and interpretative consequences. A somewhat pessimistic stance towards British economic performance before the First World War depends to a large extent on a comparison of British income per capita data (Table 3.2, p. 33) relative to that of the world?s more developed economies. However, George Boyer?s chapter on ?Living Standards, 1860-1939? (Boyer, pp. 282-83; 294-95), the source upon which Scott relies, is not unmisleading in this context. Boyer, citing data estimated by Angus Maddison, and without mention of this distinction, reports the national income per capita of a ?Britain? which is really an ahistorical United Kingdom, a hypothetical economy defined by political boundaries that would be drawn only in 1921. Nevertheless, Maddison does provides disaggregated estimates for Irish and British income per capita, and it is the latter that Scott should be interested in, given that his story relates specifically to Britain. When Britain, strictly defined, is compared to the United States of America, the relative gap in national income per capita in 1913 is shrunk from that reported of just over five percent to less than three; by analogy to conventional measures of statistical significance, while the former might just about warrant mention, the latter difference would be usually be regarded as insignificant. Moreover, the same comparative perspective indicates that in 1913 British income per capita was in excess of thirty percent higher than that of Germany or France; how many Britons would not now be delighted by the restoration of a similar lead relative to the current level of output per person achieved in Germany and France? Clearly, and contrary to Scott?s gloomy prognosis, on the eve of the Great War the British economy was not failing.

This somewhat negative view also colors analysis of British economic agencies, especially the firms that populated the Victorian economy, and questionable assumptions bolster a rather thin international perspective. Although Britain was the location of most of the world?s largest industrial enterprises at the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and probably a third of the world?s largest companies in 1912, with Germany assumed wrongly here to outstrip Britain on this count, much is made of the detrimental consequences of the relatively small size of British firms. However, the significance of firms at the lower end of the corporate spectrum is also interpreted somewhat narrowly. It is difficult to see the existence of well-developed networks of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that had been established in Britain in the nineteenth century as, per se, a peculiarly national impediment to economic growth. After all, the significant contribution to German economic development of the Mittelstand is well-established in the literature. Moreover, Philip Scranton has told a similar story concerning the contribution of the SMEs, which also saw the development of clusters, networks, external economies and regional specialisms, to American economic development before 1939. Given these international comparisons, that suggest otherwise, and taking the long run view, I remain puzzled also by the statement that, ?Sectoral specialisation appears to have been originally developed as a means of coping with Britain?s poor inland transport links? (p. 15). It is less surprising to read, however, that ?Poverty in rural Britain was even more widespread than in towns and cities? (p. 1).

The empirical database underpinning the introductory chapters that consider regional development in a quantitative framework are provided by statistics extracted from the United Kingdom Census of Population by Clive Lee and published in his British Regional Employment Statistics 1841-1971 and the recently published associated estimates of income per capita for British regions derived by Nick Crafts. Inspection of these data prompt the undisputable conclusion that London was not only the most prosperous region within the British economy in 1871 but that it subsequently and consistently enjoyed the more dynamic economic path to the twentieth century and beyond. Taking a long-run perspective this was only the restoration of a preeminence that had its origins in Norman, Saxon or even Roman times. However, the popular and enduring appeal of the Industrial Revolution does tend to color and even distort our views of British economic development such that the much remarked upon growth of manufacturing in the peripheries, especially cotton textiles in south Lancashire, woolen textiles in west Yorkshire and ferrous metal production and processing in south Wales, central Scotland and the north east of England, crowd out the relatively undramatic and less exotic incremental developments in Bristol, Birmingham and, especially, London. And London, often regarded as synonymous with the ?South,? provided England?s most populated urban center, its cultural center, the social focus of its elite, and the political capital that served first, England, then England and Wales, then the United Kingdom and, ultimately, at least until its more recent imperial retreat, the British Empire and its world. In this sense the ?Triumph of the South? has been persistent and enduring, a process of consolidation and confirmation rather than the outcome of a late nineteenth and early twentieth century contest that saw London emerge as the dominant victor over the industrial ?North? (which often stands as shorthand for all the British periphery). Put quite simply, and galling though this is to many a subject of British crown, the South rules.

This narrative was clearly established by Lee?s The British Economy since 1700, a pioneering text sensitive to regional differentiation that might have had more credit than allowed here as it also highlights the historic significance of the London?s national and international financial predominance, the consequences of London?s role as the global market place for international services, the impact of government policy, and the nature of labor processes found in Britain?s industrial heartlands. Moreover, not only have variants upon these themes long populated the continuing debate among economists and economic historians concerning British ?Declinism? but they also informed two highly visible critiques of more recent economic policy: first, the politically significant but economically ambiguous thesis propounded in the Sunday Times in 1974 by Robert Bacon and Walter Eltis that identified Britain?s problem in their diagnosis of ?Too Few Producers? and, a decade later, the proposition that services, and especially financial services, were privileged by policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher?s governments and then continued by New Labour, with damaging consequences for industry and the ?North.? These same issues now arise with the current reconfiguration of British politics produced by our contemporary recession.

Here I would suggest that Scott?s unique selling point is, his specialist research topics indicated above apart, the strong argument he proposes concerning the detrimental consequences of London?s successes and the resultant bifurcation of the interwar British economy that operated to the detriment of the ?North.? He opines that ?the ?Dutch disease? effect of London?s growing invisibles surplus progressively crowded out the commodity exports of Britain?s provincial regions? and that this was accentuated by re-investment overseas of surpluses on invisible trade which further enhanced its ?growing comparative advantage as a rentier and services-exporting, rather than industrial, nation? such that the growth of non-wage income ?began to crowd out its provincial export industries? (p. 281). However, although this thesis of relative regional deprivation is propounded with keen enthusiasm, if not zealous certainty, it remains largely untested and leaves at least two major questions abegging. The first asks if the adoption of economic policies less permissive to economic development in the ?South? would have resulted a better outcome for those who lived and worked in the ?North,? let alone higher incomes per capita across the whole economy? The second inquires as to the nature of an alternative economic policy regime that would have produced the beneficent counterfactual implicit in Scott?s story? Both questions loomed large for contemporaries and neither prompted an easily defined or uncontested policy response. Just as today.

References:

Boyer, George. ?Living Standards, 1860-1939,? in Roderick Floud and Paul Johnson (eds.), 2004. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, Vol. II: Economic Maturity, 1860-1939, pp. 280-313. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crafts, Nicholas. 2005. ?Regional GDP in Britain, 1871-1911: Some estimates,? Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 52, pp. 1-24.

Lee, C.H. 1979. British Regional Employment Statistics 1841-1971. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, C.H. 1986. The British Economy since 1700: A Macroeconomic Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maddison, Angus, 1995. Monitoring the World Economy. Paris: OECD.

Maddison, Angus (Home Page) ?Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2006 AD.? Scranton, Philip. 2000. Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Peter Wardley has written on “The Commercial Banking Industry and Its Part in the Emergence and Consolidation of the Corporate Economy in Britain before 1940,” Journal of Industrial History (October 2000) and [with Norman Gemmell] ?The Contribution of Services to British Economic Growth, 1856-1914,? Explorations in Economic History (1990). His more recent research appears in ?A Global Assessment of the Large Enterprise on the Eve of the First World War: Corporate Size and Performance in 1912,? a chapter published in Youssef Cassis and Andrea Colli (eds.) Business Performance in Theory and History (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press).

Subject(s):Urban and Regional History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII