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These unique papers were originally read at a conference on the new economic history of Britain at Harvard in 1970, and each is accompanied by a summary of the discussion that followed it. The participants of the conference represented a broad range of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic.
The first eleven papers deal with a variety of topics covering a period from 1840 to the 1920s. They focus on the performance of the British economy, and especially its businessmen, during the time of Britain's industrial maturity and relative decline. The papers and discussions reached a novel conclusion tha, contrary to commonly held opinion, the British economy performed well and that British businessmen were not lacking in entrepreneurial vigour compared with their German or American counterparts. But even more important for British historiography than this finding was the demonstration that economic and statistical methods can be applied successfully to the study of economic history. The papers in the concluding section discuss the origins and development of the new economic history and show that, as a substantial supplement to work along more traditional lines, its methods and application are both desirable and possible.
This collection serves as an interesting report of research into a key period in British history, and also as a useful introductory account of the new economic history in the United Kingdom.
This book was first published in 1971.
PART ONE: BRITAIN AND THE ATLANTIC ECONOMY
1. The American Tariff, British Exporst and American Iron Production, 1840-1860, Stanley Engerman
2. Demographic determinants of British and American building cycles, 1870-1913, Brinley Thomas
PART TWO: THE FUNCTIONING OF THE CAPITAL MARKET
3. Rigidity and bias in the British capital market, 1870-1913, Michael Edelstein
4. British controls on long term capital movements, 1924-1931, D.E. Moggridge
PART THREE: ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY AND THE CHOICE OF TECHNIQUE
5. The landscape and the machine: technical interrelatedness, land tenure and the mechanization of the corn harvest in Victorian Britain, Paul A. David
6. The shift from sailing ships to steamships, 1850-1890: a study in technological change and its diffusion, Charles K. Harley
7. Yardsticks for Victorian entrepreneurs, Peter H. Lindert and Keith Trace
8. International differences in productivity? Coal and steel in America and Britain before World War I, Deirdre McCloskey
PART FOUR: PROBLEMS OF MEASURING PRODUCTIVITY: THE CAPITAL GOODS AND SERVICE SECTORS
9. Changes in the productivity of labour in the British machine tool industry, 1856-1900, Roderick Floud
10. Nihilistic impressions of British railway history, Wray Vamplew
11. Railway passenger traffic in 1865, Gary Hawke
12. Some thoughts on the papers and discussion on the performance of the late Victorian economy, S. Berrick Saul
PART FIVE: THE FUTURE OF THE NEW ECONOMIC HISTORY IN BRITAIN
13. Is the new economic history an export product?, Jonathan R. T. Hughes
14. Is the new economic history an export product? A comment on J.R.T. Hughes, R.M. Hartwell
15. Can the new economic history become an import substitute?, Barry Supple
16. The new economic history in Britain: a comment on the papers by Hughes, Hartwell and Supple, R.C.O. Matthews
General discussion on the future of the new economic history in Britain