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Large-scale Victorian manufacturers: reconstructing the lost 1881 UK employer census

Hannah, Leslie and Bennett, Robert J. (2021) Large-scale Victorian manufacturers: reconstructing the lost 1881 UK employer census. Economic History Working Papers (330). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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We present the first available - and near-complete - list of large UK manufacturers in 1881, by complementing the employer data from that year’s population census (recovered by the British Business Census of Entrepreneurs project) with employment and capital estimates from other sources. The 438 largest firms with 1,000 or more employees accounted for around one-sixth of manufacturing output. Examples can be found in most industries. Exploiting powered machinery, intangible assets, new technologies and venture capital, and generally operating in competitive markets, their exports about equalled domestic sales. The more capital-intensive accessed stock markets, more - and in larger firms - than in follower economies. Some alleged later causes of UK decline relative to the US or Germany cannot be observed in 1881. Indeed, contemporary overseas observers - capitalist and socialist - correctly recognized the distinctive features of UK manufacturing as its exceptional development of quoted corporations, professional managers and “modern,” scalable, factory production.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: L - Industrial Organization > L6 - Industry Studies: Manufacturing > L60 - General
N - Economic History > N6 - Manufacturing and Construction > N63 - Europe: Pre-1913
N - Economic History > N8 - Micro-Business History > N83 - Europe: Pre-1913
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 08:03
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2021 23:07

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