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Changes in Victorian entrepreneurship in England and Wales 1851-1911: methodology and business population estimates

Bennett, Robert J., Smith, Harry, Montebruno, Piero ORCID: 0000-0001-8010-7446 and van Lieshout, Carry (2022) Changes in Victorian entrepreneurship in England and Wales 1851-1911: methodology and business population estimates. Business History, 64 (7). 1211 - 1243. ISSN 0007-6791

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00076791.2021.1894134


The full population of England and Wales employers and own-account business proprietors is estimated using population censuses 1851–1911. The main contribution of the article is a method of mixed single imputation to overcome the challenge of non-responses to the census 1851–1881. This method is compared with alternatives. Downloads of all data allow replication. The method is used to track trends in proprietor numbers and entrepreneurship rates to reassess the ‘decline of Victorian entrepreneurship’, onset of the ‘U’-shaped trough of the twentieth century, the ‘climacteric’ of 1901, and compositional changes by sector and sex. There is strong sector and gender diversity, with changes in female participation major drivers of overall trends. Proprietor numbers show slow increases of employers, and rapid rise and then decline of own-account, with a turning point after 1901. The methodology and turning point is compared and confirmed against the 1921 census and national and local trade directories. Current affilition for Piero Montebruno: Geographical Research Economist at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political ScienceSupplemental data for this article is available online at

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Centre for Economic Performance
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
JEL classification: L - Industrial Organization > L2 - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior > L25 - Firm Performance: Size, Diversification and Scope, Age, Profit, and Sales
D - Microeconomics > D1 - Household Behavior and Family Economics > D13 - Household Production and Intrahousehold Allocation
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2021 10:12
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2024 03:21

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