------ EH.NET BOOK REVIEW ------
Title: Locating the Industrial Revolution: Inducement and Response
Published by EH.NET (December 2011)
Eric L. Jones, /Locating the Industrial Revolution: Inducement and Response/.
Singapore: World Scientific, 2010. vii + 272 pp. $68 (hardcover), ISBN:
Reviewed for EH.Net by Dan Bogart, Department of Economics, University of
California -- Irvine.
The Industrial Revolution is often modeled as a national or continental
phenomenon. The most common questions are why did Britain industrialize
first and not France, or why Europe and not Asia? However, there is a case to
be made that the Industrial Revolution was a regional phenomenon. Here the
classic question is why did northern England industrialize and southern
England not. Southern England was more densely populated and had significant
manufacturing ca.1700. Its de-industrialization poses a puzzle.
Eric Jones’s most recent book, /Locating the Industrial Revolution/,
studies the British Industrial Revolution from the perspective of the
north-south divide. One of its main arguments is that pre-railway transport
improvements led to more integrated product and factor markets within England
and that once trade costs declined industry began to concentrate in the North
and leave the South. The northward shift in manufacturing was gradual and
out-migration from the South too slow to maintain southern living standards
by the mid-nineteenth century. Industrialization was painful for some in
southern England. A key question is whether the North had an initial
comparative advantage in manufacturing because of natural resource
advantages. Jones argues that endowments like coal did not decidedly favor
the North. The argument is three-fold. First, the South had some natural
resources, like timber. Second, it could have imported the resources it did
not have, especially once transport costs declined. Third, southern decline
included industries that did not use coal, including consumer goods
industries. Although doubts are raised about the significance of coal, Jones
does not put the argument entirely to rest. For some industries, like iron
production, the North must have had a comparative advantage. It is possible
that once these coal-using industries became concentrated in the North, firms
in other industries found it economical to locate nearby. Thus there may have
been little southern manufacturers could have done to stem the northward
shift in industry. The key issue is whether location of workers in all
sectors, including consumer goods, was largely dependent on endowments or
whether other factors, like business practices, mattered too. In my opinion,
the issue needs to be settled with fresh data and econometric techniques.
Jones offers an alternative theory -- that southerners failed to
“respond” to northern competition, noting a lack of dynamism in its
manufacturing sector. The reasons for its sluggishness are not made entirely
clear. Culture and institutions are referenced as being important factors
in the industrial revolution as a national phenomenon, but they are not shown
to have a bearing on the regional divergence. For instance, Jones gives a
critique of the landowning class, emphasizing their predilection for
fox-hunting, conspicuous consumption, and bullying of the poor. While there
is no denying that some landowners had these characteristics, it is not clear
that southerners expressed them more than northerners. Perhaps what is most
crucial is the relative size of the landowning class in the South. Pursuing
the issue further it is not clear that blood sports and the peculiar social
practices of landowners were growth retarding during early industrialization,
no matter how repugnant they are to modern sensibilities. Jones argues that
blood sports absorbed too much of the energy and capital of southern
landowners. That may be true, but one could also argue that Britain’s
landowning class played some role in propelling industrialization. They did
provide much of the capital for transport improvements after all.
Borough and guild resistance to innovation is another classical explanation
for southerners’ failure to respond. Jones gives the example of the Exeter
Weavers Company increasing its enforcement of anti-competitive practices as
northern competition intensified. Although guilds are not the main focus of
the book, they do raise some interesting questions for the north-south
divergence. Perhaps there were some key differences in industrial practices
within Britain, as there were across countries.
Transport improvements are an engine of change in Jones’s analysis.
Infrastructure improvements in rivers, roads, and canals were indeed
significant from 1700 to 1830. Equally important, there were technological
changes in carriages and road-building and improvements in the structuring of
transport firms. The end results were a large decline in transport costs
within road transport and large transport cost savings from shifting to
canals and rivers. As one goes deeper there are some complications however.
First, we lack estimates of the effects of transport improvements on
industrial location or occupation in pre-railway Britain. Second, there is
often an implicit assumption that transport changes were equal within the
North and South. This may be incorrect. The North had more canals than the
South and there is some evidence that southern counties spent less
maintaining and improving local roads compared to northern counties.
Intra-regional transport advantages could explain why the north was more
responsive to the opportunities provided by a unified national market.
Jones has an interesting chapter relating to current debates about the
differential fertility of the upper class. Greg Clark has argued that the
rich in Britain had more children and were carriers of preferences more
favorable to work and thrift. Jones uses a study of his own ancestry to
illustrate that the downwardly mobile tended to have fewer children. Some of
the poorer members of the surrounding community also turned to criminal
behavior. The intention of the case study is not to settle the debate about
fertility patterns and their implications for preferences, but rather to add
some illustrations to the statistical abstractions offered in other studies.
Overall, /Locating the Industrial Revolution/ is a welcome contribution to
the literature. Most importantly, it incorporates and emphasizes spatial
analysis in studying the industrial revolution. Those interested in the
sources of industrial success will profit from its reading.
Dan Bogart has recently written “Did the Glorious Revolution Contribute to
the Transport Revolution? Evidence from Investment in Roads and Rivers,”
/Economic History Review/ (November 2011), as well as other work on
Britain’s transport development during industrialization.
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Geographic Location: Europe
Subject: Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity, Industry:
Manufacturing and Construction, Urban and Regional History
Time: 18th Century, 19th Century