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The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective: a critique of the high wage economy interpretation of the British industrial revolution

Humphries, Jane (2013) The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective: a critique of the high wage economy interpretation of the British industrial revolution. Economic History Review, 66 (3). pp. 693-714. ISSN 0013-0117

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2012.00663.x

Abstract

The new meta-narrative of the industrial revolution contends that Britain was a high wage economy and that this itself caused industrialization. Contemporary inventions, although derived from scientific discoveries shared with mainland Europe, could only be profitable in the context of Britain's factor prices. Therefore, important inventions were only developed in Britain where they enabled access to a growth path that transcended trajectories associated with more labour-intensive production methods. The criticism presented here concerns perspective and methodology. The account of the high wage economy is misleading because it focuses on men and male wages, underestimates the relative caloric needs of women and children, and bases its view of living standards on an ahistorical and false household economy. A more accurate picture of the structure and functioning of working-class households provides an alternative explanation of inventive and innovative activity in terms of the availability of cheap and amenable female and child labour and thereby offers a broader interpretation of the industrial revolution.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2012 Economic History Society
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD2329 Industrialization
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2019 15:18
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2019 03:06
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/101314

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