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Rehabilitating the Industrial Revolution Author(s): Maxine Berg and Pat Hudson Reviewed work(s): Source: The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 24-50 Published by: Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Economic History Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/11/2012 06:41Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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Economic Review, XLV, History




Rehabilitating industrial therevolution'By MAXINE BERG and PAT HUDSON

the and nineteenth centuries as awayfrom viewing lateeighteenth early in a uniqueturning and The of point economic socialdevelopment.2 notion in radical change industry society and over occurring a specific period was in effectively challenged the I920s and I930s by Clapham and others who of stressed long taproots development the incomplete the of and nature economic socialtransformation.' thisit was no longer and After possible to claimthatindustrial de society emerged novoat anytimebetween I750 c. and i85o, buttheidea ofindustrial revolution survived the i960s and into I970s. In i968 Hobsbawmcould state unequivocally that the British revolution themost was in the industrial fundamental transformation history in oftheworld recorded written documents.4 Rostow's work still was widely of influential the socialhistory whatwas seen as a new typeof class and was onlystarting be written. idea thatthelate eighteenth to The society and early nineteenth centuries witnessed significant a socioeconomic remained entrenched.' well discontinuity In thelastdecadethegradualist has In to perspective appeared triumph. it economic becauseof a preoccupation with history has done so largely at of basedconceptualizations growth accounting theexpense morebroadly have ofeconomic New statistics beenproduced which illustrate the change. of slowgrowth industrial and output grossdomestic product. Productivity fixed and grew slowly; capital proportions, savings, investment changed only standards their emained workers' and gradually; living personal consumptionI Some of the arguments this articleappear in Berg, 'Revisionsand revolutions'; in and in Hudson, We to for of and industries. are verygrateful N. F. R. Crafts detaileddiscussion thesubstance ed., Regions and to seminar of Research,London, theNorthern of an earlier version, groupsat theInstitute Historical of of of Economic HistoriansGroup, University Manchester,the University Glasgow, the University in of Paris viii at St Denis, and the Universities Oslo and Bergen.Although manyof the arguments the discussionin thispaper to the paper apply as much to Scotlandand Wales as to England, we confine in wherethe existing literature discussed. is industrial revolution England in orderto avoid confusion 2 For a broad surveyof this and othertrendsin the historiography the industrial of revolution see Cannadine,'The past and the present'. morecataclysmic associatedwithinitiating trend the awayfrom interpretations 3Clapham is mostoften in in Economic history modern of Britain,but the shift emphasisis obviousin otherworksof the interwar revolution; Heaton, 'Industrialrevolution';Redford, period and earlier,e.g. Mantoux, The industrial and revolutions; George,Englandin transition. Economic history England;Knowles,Industrial commercial of 4 Hobsbawm, Industry and empire, I3. p. period as class identified industrial the revolution 5Thompson in his Making of theEnglishworking Rostow's Stages of economic growth, thoughchallengedover the greatturning point in class formation. was a powerful voice in favourof significant the precisefitbetweenthe model and Britishexperience, picture economicdiscontinuity. Landes in Unbound Prometheus drew a convincing and unprecedented of the transformations initiated technical innovation. by

T he historiography the industrial of revolution Englandhas moved in


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largely unaffectedbefore I 830 and were certainlynot squeezed. The of macroeconomic indicators industrial and social transformation were not present and so the notionof industrial revolution been dethroned has almost instead of entirely leaving onlya longprocess structural changein employment fromagrarian non-agrarian to occupations.6 At the same time,and oftentakinga strong lead fromthe gradualism of economichistory the of interpretations, social history the periodhas shifted away fromanalysisof new class formations consciousness.7 and The postMarxian perspective stressesthe continuity betweeneighteenth- nineand social protest and radicalism. for teenth-century Chartism, example,is seen of as a chronological extension the eighteenth-century constitutional attack on Old Corruption.8 Late eighteenth-century depressions theNapoleonic and of Wars are seen as the majorprecipitators social tensions whichare viewed fromtemporary selective and economichardship rather as arising thanfrom or 'The ancienregime anynewradicalcritique alternative political economy.9 oftheconfessional state'survived eighteenth early the and nineteenth centuries the dominantexplanationof substantially unchanged.'0 In demography, the late eighteenth-century its populationexplosionstresses continuity with a much earlier-established intactuntil demographic regimewhichremained at least the I840s.11 And an influential tendencyin the socio-cultural of historiography the last few yearshas argued that the English industrial revolution was veryincomplete(if it existedat all) because the industrial failedto gainpolitical Thus England and economicascendancy.'2 bourgeoisie neverexperienced periodofcommitment industrial a to the growth: industrial in revolutionwas a brief interruption a great arch of continuity whose in economic and politicalbase remainedfirmly the hands of the landed in and finance. aristocracy its offshoots metropolitan Gentlemanly capitalism in of and industrialists the prevailedand the power and influence industry and limited.'3 Englisheconomyand societywere ephemeral6 Crafts, Britisheconomic growth. See also Harley, 'Britishindustrialization'; McCloskey,'Industrial in revolution'; Feinstein,'Capital formation GreatBritain';Lindertand Williamson,'English workers' livingstandards'.More radical social and culturalchange is implied in some of the recentliterature discussingincreasesin internal consumption. See Brewer,McKendrick,and Plumb, Birthof consumer But society. we concentrate hereon thegradualism supplyside approaches economichistory of in because supplyside changesare vitalin underpinning changein aggregate any demand. The so-calledconsumer revolution these years can only be understoodas part of a dynamicinterplay of betweenchanging consumption patterns and the transformation employment production. of and 7 Characterized by Thompson,Makingof theEnglishworking class, and emphasizedby Foster,Class struggle. Chartism'. 8 StedmanJones,'Rethinking 9 Williams, 'Morals'; Stevenson,Popular disturbances, ii8, I52; Thomis, Luddites,ch. 2. For pp. of see and critiques thisliterature Charlesworth Randall, 'Comment';Randall, 'Philosophy Luddism'. of For a balanced surveyof the debate on the 'moraleconomy',see Stevenson, 'Moral economy'. 10The phraseis fromClark,Englishsociety whichis heavilycritical the social history the I970S of of and i98os. For a critiqueof his position,see Innes, 'Jonathan Clark'. 11 Wrigleyand Schofield, The argument summarized Wrigley,'Growthof is in Populationhistory. and economy'. population'and in Smith,'Fertility 12 See Wiener, English culture; Anderson,'Figures of descent'; Cain and Hopkins, 'Gentlemanly of thatthe capitalism';Ingham,Capitalism divided?; Leys, 'Formation British capital'. For the argument landed aristocracy an eliteclosed to new wealthsee Stone and Stone,Open elite?;Rubinstein, was 'New men'. 13 Ibid. The term'great arch' is fromCorrigan and Sayer, The greatarch althoughthis work itself does not place exclusivestresson continuity.

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favourscontinuity and gradualism, Though currentconsensus strongly appear to have had littledoubt about the magnitudeand contemporaries industrial change. In i8I4 of importance changein the period,particularly PatrickColquhoun wrote: in to the of It is impossible contemplate progress manufactures GreatBritain Its wonderand astonishment. rapidity, within the last thirty yearswithout war, revolutionary exceeds of since particularly thecommencementtheFrench The of but all credibility. improvement steamengines, aboveall thefacilities of manufactories by to afforded the greatbranches the woollenand cotton all and are by machinery, invigorated capital skill, beyond calculation ingenious and are applicable silk,linen,hosiery various to . . . thesemachines rendered other branches.14