Do you agree with Pat Hudson’s argument in her chapter ‘the Economy and theState’?In this chapter Pat Hudson focuses on economic growth during the industrialrevolution, she questions whether or not this growth was as extreme aspreviously thought, and why it came about. She also discusses the role thestate played economically and its contribution both commercially andindustrially. She puts forward a convincing argument, which highlights theissues surrounding the debate over whether or not the term industrialrevolution is an exaggeration of the economic changes that occurred inBritain during this period. I agreewithherargumentandherinterpretation of the data she uses as evidence.
The first step Hudson takes to support this argument is to look at newestimates of economic change produced in the last ten years such as GDPgrowth and industrial output. She puts forward the arguments used by Harleyin 1982 and of Wrigley and Schofield against Deane and Cole’s figures inthe sixties. These arguments state that dean and Cole had relied tooheavily on import and export figures to work out growth, and thatpopulation growth had begun earlier than they thought.
This is crucial incalculating the rate of economic growth.Hudson then discusses the revisions of occupational structure in theeighteenth century, which were carried out by Lindert and Williamson. Theyused data on wages and burial records to show that the previous estimatesby Gregory King had been influenced in favour to agriculture. Crafts thenbrought together many of these new estimates and incorporated them with hisown. He suggested that productivity growth was very slow up until 1830.Healso states that TFP grew very slowly and was influenced by agriculture,not industry. Hudson brings up the common argument against the idea of anindustrial revolution concerning the textile industry.
Cotton was a smallsector of the industrial world, yet it is thought that it accounted foraround half of all productivity change in manufacturing.Next Hudson brings in a completely different argument to show the limits ofeconomic growth, one that disagrees with Craft. J.
G. Williamson argues thatthe high growth and productivity levels thatCraftattributedtoagriculture would have caused de-industrialisation. Williamson insteadconsiders the slowing down of British industrialisation was due to thefailure of the labour and capital markets, as in the difference betweenurban and rural wages.
He believes that the capital market failed due tothe investments made during the Napoleonic wars, which inhibited growth andcontributed to the poor living standards suffered by the working class.However unlike Craft he considers the period to be one of dramatic changeand innovation, even if labour shortages and debt slowed it down.Hudson also addresses the issue of the unreliability of data from thisperiod. The modern way of measuring economic activity is by analysingnational income, this can be unreliable today, however it is even more sowhen applied to economics during the nineteenth and early twentiethcentury, which were considerably underdeveloped. Its unreliability isincreased further due to the scarceness of reliable data.
Hudson goes on togive examples of productivity calculations and show how they differ. Theburial records that are used by historians for occupational data are alsonot to be relied on, as they do not record the occupations of either womenor children even although their contributiontotheeconomywassubstantial. The records also neglect to define occupations such as’labourer’ or ‘gentleman’. Hudson emphasised how much ofthedatacompletely underestimates activity in numerous occupations. Some of it evenleaves out industries that were growing fast, and were vital in the newurban Britain such as glass, lead, metalwork and food processing.The author also addresses the subject of labour division; this is animportant factor in the argument.
Some historians believe thattheindustrial revolution was down to changes in labour, such as shift work anddivision of labour and tasks, thus reducingcostsandincreasingproductivity, all with limited use of technology. There was also a massivechange in lifestyle as more people than ever before were city dwellers,this provided a large labour market including women and children.Hudson then goes on to discuss the role the state plays concerning economicchange. In the nineteenth century Britain was economically superior to therest of the world, she possessed a near monopoly of the overseas market aswell as being a major military power with a huge empire. However the loansacquired by the state during the wars were responsible for the majority ofthe financial problems later on in the century.
The state dealt with thisby heavily taxing goods and imposing income tax. The state contributed tothe economic growth because of this tax, even although it became moredifficult to impose tax on trade goods due to smuggling and evasion. Waralso played an important part in the growth of many industries such astextiles and hardware, and more importantly the outcome of the warsincreased demand for British goods, so exports significantly increased.In this chapter Hudson puts forward different interpretations of theeffects the Napoleonic wars had on the economy. Craft is of the view thatwartime had very limited effects on key sectors of the economy whileWilliamson blames the wars for the slow growth of the economy during theindustrial revolution. Some economic historians feel that the economy wouldnot have slumped had it not been for the wars, i.e. if it had continued togrow at the rate it did before the war.
Hudson states that wartimeincreases in customs duties did not have a harmful effect on most majorindustries, and it had a commercialising effect on agriculture.Pat Hudson’s approach to economics during the period of the industrialrevolution is becoming more common as new theories are put forward and oldones questioned. She approaches the issues covered in this chapter frommany perspectives, and does not deny that despite the debates this was aperiod of change that would set the course for today’sinnovativetechnological world.