Working Papers

Authors: David Meredith, Deborah Oxley

Sep 2013

In 2009, Horrell, Meredith and Oxley used trends in body mass to argue that poor London women in the later 19th century suffered declining access to household resources over their lifetimes.  The authors evaluated competing models of household behaviour, rejected the unitary model of equal distribution throughout the household, saw some support for a safety-first model, but on the whole concluded that resources were allocated in accordance with bargaining power linked to the economic worth of family members.  As (particularly married) women's labour-force participation fell, so too did their share of the food diminish, and with this they lost weight.  This unequal distribution was supported by a moral economy of the family: a set of shared values about obligations and entitlements which protected earners and prioritized the needs of children secured by maternal sacrifice.  The current paper explores further the role of power in the family.  The contention of a bargaining household is supported through a very different but contemporaneous case study: the modern industrial town of Paisley.  The paper juxtaposes a service economy (Wandsworth near London) with a modern manufacturing sector (Paisley near Glasgow) in order to contrast how economic form and opportunities in the market sector shaped relations and outcomes in the household sector.  Again, our measure is lifetime nutrition and our data are drawn from prisons.  We find that families bargained over the allocation of resources; that bargaining position was heavily influenced by economic value, mediated by maternal sacrifice; that this was an earner bias rather than a gender bias; and that new industrial work for women and children supported a more egalitarian distribution that improved everyone's health status via superior heights and heavier weights.  It is a tale of two cities, of blood and bone, of flesh and families.

Reference: 118

Individual View

Authors: Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, Nicholas Crafts

Sep 2013

This paper surveys the experience of economic growth in the 20th century with a focus on technological change at the frontier together with issues related to success and failure in catch-up growth.  A detailed account of growth performance based on historical national accounts data is given and is accompanied by a review of growth accounting evidence on the sources of economic growth.  The key features of our analysis of divergence in growth outcomes are an emphasis on the importance of 'directed' technical change, of institutional quality, and of geography.  We provide brief case studies of the experience of individual countries to illustrate these points.

JEL Codes: N10. O33, O43, O47

Keywords: catch-up, divergence, growth accounting, technical change

Reference: 117

Individual View

Authors: Avner Offer

Jun 2013

Banking in the UK was stable for more than a century after 1866.  Financial institutions were differentiated according to function.  The core banks did not engage in maturity transformation, but in managing a payments system for business.  Real estate was a potential source of instability due to high credit elasticity of demand and to long maturities, but credit was successfully rationed by building societies, who relied on the funds that their savers had actually withdrawn from consumption.  After 1945, credit rationing came under pressure from consumers and housebuyers.  Incremental liberalisations after 1971 released a tide of credit which created a property windfall economy.  Borrowers and lenders both prospered until the system collapsed under its own weight in 2007.

Reference: 116

Individual View

Authors: Robert Allen

Jun 2013

This article responds to Professor Jane Humphries' critique of my assessment of the high wage economy of eighteenth century Britain and its importance for explaining the Industrial Revolution.  New Evidence is presented to show that women and children participated in the high wage economy.  It is also shown that the high wage economy provides a good explanation of why the Industrial Revolution happened in the eighteenth century by showing that increases of women's wages around 1700 greatly increased the profitability of using spinning machinery.  The relationship between the high wage economy of the eighteenth century and the inequality and poverty in Britain in the nineteenth century is explored.

Reference: 115

Individual View

Authors: James Fenske, Vellore Arthi

May 2013

We examine the determinants of time allocation and child labour in a year-long panel of time-use data from colonial Nigeria.  Using quantitative and ethnographic approaches, we show that health shocks imposed time costs on individuals.  Whether individuals could recruit substitutes depended on social standing, urgency of work, and type of illness.  Child labour did not systematically respond to temporary parental illness, but could replace a permanently disabled adult.  Child labour was coordinated with parental work, aided childcare, and allowed children to build skills and resources.  These decisions can be understood within an endogenous bargaining power framework with labour complementarities.

Reference: 114

Individual View

Authors: C. Knick Harley

Apr 2013

Modern economic growth first emerged in Britain about the time of the Industrial Revolution, with its cotton textile factories, urban industrialization and export orientated industrialization.  A period of economic growth, industrial diversification and export orientation preceded the Industrial Revolution.  This export orientation revolved around an Americanization of British trade for which the slave colonies of the Caribbean were central.  The Eric Williams' explored the extent to which this export economy based on West Indian slavery contributed to the coming of the Industrial Revolution.  His claim that profits from the slave trade were crucial to the Industrial Revolution has not stood up to criticial evaluation.  Nonetheless, modern speculations regarding endogenous growth plausibly postulate that manufacturing, urbanization, and a powerful merchant class all have a favourable impact for growth.  These hypotheses need careful consideration.

What set the British colonial empire aside from its rivals was not the quality of its sugar colonies but the involvement of the temperate colonies on the North American mainland.  Unlike the slave colonies created to exploit staple exports, English emigrants to the northern mainland sought to establish independent settlement.  These colonies lacked staple products and residents financed imports by exploited opportunities the empire provided providing for shipping and merchanising and compensating for the lack of European market for the timber or temperate agricultural products by exporting to the sugar colonies which, in turn, concentrated on the export staple.  The British Empire was unique and its development provided an important and growing diversified and relatively wealthy market for British manufactured goods that all other empires lacked.  Although the mainland colonies financed their imports of British manufactured goods by intergrading into the slave-based British Atlantic, it seems likely that in the absence of opportunities in the slave colonies the mainland colonies would have imported similar amounts of British manufactured goods.

Reference: 113

Individual View

Authors: S.D.Smith, Martin Forster

Feb 2013

This study estimates agency's impact on the efficiency of sugar plantations on St. Vincent and the Grenadines during the early 19th century.  Using a panel data set covering the years 1814-1829, a series of stochastic frontier models are estimated to investigate whether estates employing agents were more technically efficient than those managed by the owners themselves.  Multiple imputation methods are used to deal with missing data problems.  There is no evidence, in any of the models estimated, to suggest that estates under agency were less efficient than those that were directed by their owners.  Estimates from a number of models suggest that agent-operated estates were more efficient.

Reference: 112

Individual View

Authors: C. Knick Harley

Feb 2013

Modern economic growth – the simultaneous increase in population and average incomes – has been capitalism’s greatest achievement. This growth first became apparent in Britain in the nineteenth century and then spread to continental Europe (and the United States). The process is usually associated with the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the spread of British-type industrialization to follower economies. This chapter reviews the emergence of modern economic growth and suggests that the usual view is misleading in that it focuses is too limited both in time and in the technological change it usually emphasizes. On one hand, the of famous industries – textiles, iron and engineering – contributed only modestly to growth because they constituted only a small proportion of the economy. Furthermore, the emergence of growth was much more gradual than traditionally understood. In new views, Britain was already a substantially industrialized economy with relatively high wages before the early eighteenth century. The origin of growth appear to lie in the ability of an economy in which both product and factor markets were well developed in both the rural and urban areas to partially overcome Malthusian constraints. The spread of growth to continental Europe is often seen as the spread of new technology of the British Industrial Revolution. This too seems somewhat misleading. The industries were small relative to the entire economies and their success depended on particular conditions. Furthermore, just as Britain’s early success rested importantly on productive capitalist agriculture, the emergence of increased incomes on the continent depended on agricultural reforms that increases in its productivity.

Reference: 111

Individual View

Authors: Mary Elisabeth Cox

Feb 2013

At the beginning of the First World War, the British imposed a blockade against Germany intending to prevent all imports from entering the country.  Germans began to call the British naval action the Hungerblockade, claiming that it seriously damaged the well-being of those on the home front, namely women and children, through lack of adequate nutrition.  These German claims that Britain used hunger as a weapon of war against civilians have sometimes been dismissed as propaganda.  However, newly discovered anthropometric measurements made of German school children during the war gives credence to German contentions that the blockade inflicted severe deprivation on children and other non-combatants.  Further, these data show that the blockade exacerbated existing nutritional inequalities between children of different social classes; working class children suffered the most profound effects of nutritional deprivation during the war.  Once the blockade ended however, working class children were the quickest to recover, regaining their pre-War standards in weight by 1921.  They surpassed their own pre-War height standards by 1923, and approximated the weight of middle class children by 1924.  This recovery of working class children is likely due to the outpouring of international aid targeted at poor German children.  These data also indicate significant gender inequalities starting at age fourteen in nutritional status, with male adolescents suffering far greater deprivation from 1914-1924.

Reference: 110

Individual View

Authors: Gregg Huff, Shinobu Majima

Oct 2012

This paper analyzes how Japan financed its World War II occupation of Southeast Asia, the transfer of resources to Japan, and the monetary and inflation consequences of Japanese policies. In Malaya, Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines, the issue of military scrip to pay for resources and occupying armies greatly increased money supply. Despite high inflation, hyperinflation hardly occurred because of a sustained transactions demand for money, because of Japan’s strong enforcement of monetary monopoly, and because of declining Japanese military capability to ship resources home. In Thailand and Indochina, occupation costs and bilateral clearing arrangements created near open-ended Japanese purchasing power and allowed the transfer to Japan of as much as a third of Indochina’s annual GDP. Although the Thai and Indochinese governments financed Japanese demands mainly by printing large quantities of money, inflation rose only in line with monetary expansion due to money’s continued use as a store of value in rice-surplus areas.

Keywords: War, Financial and macroeconomic crises, Resource transfer, Occupation costs, Bilateral clearing arrangements, Seigniorage, Hyperinflation, Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity

Reference: 109

Individual View

Authors: James Fenske

Oct 2012

Although Nigeria’s Benin region was a major rubber producer in 1960, the industry faltered before 1921. I use labour scarcity and state capacity to explain why rubber did not take hold in this period. The government was unable to protect Benin’s rubber forests from over-exploitation. Plantations found it difficult to recruit workers, and the government was unwilling to allow expatriates to acquire land. Colonial officials promoted the development of “communal” plantations, but these suffered due to labour scarcity and a state that was short on staff and equipment, and dependent on local chiefs. 

Reference: 108

Individual View

Authors: James Fenske

Oct 2012

At the start of the Second World War, British policies restricted rubber planting in Nigeria’s Benin region. After Japan occupied Southeast Asia, Britain encouraged maximum production of rubber in Benin. Late in the war, officials struggled with the planting boom that had occurred. The war was a period of both continuity and change. Producers gained experience and capital. Forestry policies restricting planting survived, and output quality continued to occupy officials after the war. The colonial state was hindered by a lack of knowledge and resources, and by its pursuit of conflicting objectives in giving incentives to both producers and traders. 

Reference: 107

Individual View

Authors: Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke

Oct 2012

This chapter provides a brief introduction to the history of Britain’s engagement with the international economy between 1870 and 2010. It begins by discussing long run trends in the integration of the British economy with the rest of the world over time. Economic historians are typically interested in four types of flows between economies: trade in goods and services; flows of capital; migration flows; and flows of ideas and technology. The last flow is probably the most important one for countries hoping to catch up to the international technological frontier. While this was not the right way to characterise the British economy in 1870, it probably was at various points after World War II. Unfortunately, such flows are also the most difficult to quantify, and so I follow the bulk of the literature in concentrating on trade, capital flows and migration. 

Reference: 106

Individual View

Authors: Arthur Downing

Oct 2012

Participation in ‘friendly societies’ (or other cooperative organisations) is often used as proxy for measuring the stock of social capital. This is too simplistic. Friendly societies underwent radical changes over the nineteenth century and contemporaries regularly bemoaned that sociability, member participation and conviviality had been in steady decline over the second half of the century. This paper investigates the social relations between friendly society members. Part one looks at the importance of lynchpin ‘social capitalists’ in the functioning of lodges. Parts two and three examine how lodges generated social capital and how they relied on social network ties between members to function. Part four applies network analysis to proposition books to assess ‘intra’ lodge relationships between members. As friendly societies grew in size they became more business like. In turn the emphasis shifted from sociability and conviviality to insurance provision. In the process social capital was squandered, but the welfare function of these organisations was temporarily safeguarded.

Reference: 105

Individual View

Authors: Aled Davies

Oct 2012

How far were monetary targets imposed on the post-1974 Labour Government by international and domestic financial markets enthused with the doctrines of ‘monetarism’? The following paper attempts to answer this question by demonstrating the complex and contingent nature of the ascent of British ‘monetarism’ after 1968. It describes the post-devaluation valorisation of the ‘money supply’ which led investors to realign their expectations with the behaviour of the monetary aggregates. The collapse of the global fixed-exchange rate regime, coupled with vast domestic inflationary pressures after 1973, determined that investors came to employ the ‘money supply’ as a convenient new measure with which to assess the ‘soundness’ of British economic management. The critical juncture of the 1976 Sterling crisis forced the Labour Government into a reluctant adoption of monetary targets as part of a desperate attempt to regain market confidence. The result was to impose significant constraints on the Government’s economic policymaking freedom, as attempts were made to retain favourable money supply figures exposed to the short-term volatility of increasingly-globalised and highly-capitalized financial markets.

Reference: 104

Individual View

Authors: Avner Offer

Aug 2012

Western governments typically pay out some 30 percent of GDP for social purposes.  This is financed by taxation on a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) basis.  How efficient are these transfers, and can market or other mechanisms do it better?  The problem arises since no individual stands alone.  During the life cycle there are several periods of unavoidable dependency, in which there is no earning and little to bargain with: motherhood, infancy, childhood, education, illness, disability, unemployment, old age.  The problem is how to transfer resources from 'producers' to 'dependants' over the life cycle.  The market solution is for individuals to accumulate financial assets and to transfer them over the life cycle by means of long-term contracts with financial intermediaries.

Reference: 103

Individual View

Authors: Avner Offer

Aug 2012

Bad ethics can make for bad economic outcome.  Bad ethics are defined hedonically as the infliction of pain on others for private advantage.  The infliction of pain is often justified by 'Just World Theories', which state that everyone gets what they deserve.  Market liberalism (and its theoretical underpinning in neoclassical economics) is one theory of this kind.  As an example, the micro and macro underperformance of the American health system c. 1970-2010 is explained in terms of the shift in policy norms from the fiduciary norm "first do no harm" to the neo-liberal market norm of "let the buyer beware" (caveat emptor) since the 1970s.

Reference: 102

Individual View

Authors: Avner Offer

Aug 2012

Adam Smith rejected Mandeville's invisible-hand doctrine of 'private vices, public benefits'.  In The Theory of Moral Sentiments his model of the 'impartial spectator' is driven not by sympathy for other people, but by their approbation.  Approbation needs to be authenticated, and in Smith's model authentication relies on innate virtue, which is unrealistic.  An alternative model of 'regard' is applied, which makes use of signalling and is more pragmatic.  Modern versions of the invisible hand in rational choice theory and neo-liberalism are shown to be radical departures from the ethical legacy of Enlightenment and utilitarian economics, and are inconsistent with Adam Smith's own position.

Reference: 101

Individual View

May 2012

On the occasion of the hundredth issue of the Discussion Papers, this special number contains reflections on the past and future of economic and social history at Oxford and in general.  Five scholars, who have been associated with the subject at Oxford, contribute with personal reflections on this topic.  Two introductory studies survey the record of the Discussion Papers and the history of the discipline at Oxford, focussing on the organisation of the teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels and on the research lineages initiated by the faculty in post since the war.

Reference: 100

Individual View

Authors: Eric B. Schneider

May 2012

This paper uses demographic data drawn from Wrigley et al.s (1997) family reconstitutions of 26 English parishes to adjust Allen’s (2001) real wages to the changing demography of early moden England.  Using parity progression ratios (a fertility measure) and age specific mortality for children and parents, model families are predicted in two reference periods 1650-1700 and 1750-1800.  These models yield two levels of interesting results.  At the individual family level, we can measure how different families’ real wages changed over the family life cycle as additional children were born.  At the aggregate level, we can predict thousands of families using Monte Carlo simulation, creating a realistic distribution of median family real wages in the economy.  There are two main findings.  First, pregnancy and lactation do not create cyclical effects in the family’s income.  Instead, most families’ welfare ratios decline steadily across the family life cycle until children begin to leave the household, increasing the welfare ratios.  Second, Allen’s real wages understate or match the median of the predicted demography-adjusted distributions.

Reference: 099

Individual View

Authors: Harold Carter

May 2012

Housing was the major domestic priority of all postwar UK governments.  By 1970 the physical conditions of British housing had been transformed; by the 1990s seventy per cent of households in England owned their own homes.  Yet in 2012 there were still parts of many cities that deserved labeling as slums.  Why had massive public expenditure not managed to achieve the goal of successive governments?  Vested interests, created by each wave of intervention, limited subsequent policy choices.  From about 1950 to about 1995, governments expanded owner occupation via a wide range of subsidies, but increasingly restricted the supply of land by restrictive planning laws.  There was a massive (and unremarked) tenurial revolution, as privately rented houses were sold off to owner occupiers.  At the same time, slum clearance created large single-tenure areas.  This changed the nature of the demand for council housing (once occupied by the upper skilled working-class).  In some parts of the country, gentrification removed a once-affordable source of owner-occupied housing.  But rent control meant there were few homes for would-be renters.  Access to good quality social housing thus became a very high-stakes game, for those on modest incomes - and a major source of ethnic tension in some inner cities.

Reference: 098

Individual View

Authors: Eric Schneider

Feb 2012

This paper challenges the growing consensus in the literature (Stone, 2005; Dodds, 2007) that medieval English peasants and manorial managers were price responsive in their production decisions.  Using prices of and acreages planted with wheat, barley, and oats of 49 manors held by the bishop of Winchester from 1349-70, we estimate price elasticities of supply for each grain in aggregate and on each particular manor.  Aggregate price elasticities of supply for wheat and oats were not significantly different than zero, and barley aggregate elasticities of supply were significant but very low.  These elasticities are low compared with price elasticities of supply estimated for developing and developed countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Attempting to explain the variation in the estimated price elasticities for individual manors, market concentration had a significant, positive effect on price elasticities of wheat and oat supply.  In the end, the low levels of price responsiveness in the post-Black Death period suggest that commercialisation was not as dominant in the medieval English economy as has been argued.  Thus, the institutional and structural changes highlighted by Marxist and Neo-Malthusian historians may need to take a more prominent role in explanations of medieval economic change.

Reference: 097

Individual View

Authors: Gregg Huff

Feb 2012

Between the 1870s and World War II, falls in world shipping costs and Western industrialisation gave rise to export-led Southeast Asian growth and specialization in a narrow range of primary commodity exports.  A linked development was the emergence of a few dominant Southeast Asian urban centres, typically primate and always ports.  Drawing on historical census data, this paper uses rank-size distributions and transition matrices to investigate the influence of commodity specialisation and exports on urban systems development in the region.  It is argued that different commodities produced different spread effects, resulting in variation in degrees of urban concentration in the region.  However, geography, path dependence and infrastructrue also shaped urban systems development.  The main cities that emerged during this period became the 'gateways' that connected frontier Southeast Asia to the Global economy.

JEL Codes: N15, N95, R11

Keywords: Urbanisation, Gateway cities, Agglomeration effects, Export-led growth, Staple exports, Urban systems, Rank-size distributions, Transition matrices

Reference: 096

Authors: Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, Alan de Bromhead, Barry Eichengreen

Feb 2012

We examine the impact of the Great Depression on the share of votes for right-wing anti-system parties in elections in the 1920s and 1930s.  We confirm the existence of a link between political extremism and economic hard times as captured by growth or contraction of the economy.  What mattered was not simply growth at the time of the election but cumulative growth performance.  But the effect of the Depression on support for right-wing anti-system parties was not equally powerful under all economic, political and social circumstances.  It was greatest in countries with relatively short histories of democracy, with existing extremist parties, and with electoral systems that created low hurdles to parliamentary representation.  Above all, it was greatest where depressed economic conditions were allowed to persist.

JEL Codes: N10, D72

Keywords: Great Depression, Political extremism, Voting

Reference: 095

Individual View

Authors: Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, Harold James

Feb 2012

The paper presents trade policy as in line with that of other continental European powers, with a move to moderate levels of tariff protection for politically sensitive sectors such as steel and textiles and clothing, but also in agriculture, with levels of protection falling slightly before the First World War.  Monetary policy was similarly driven by the constraints of capital scarcity, and the political priority attached to reducing the cost of funding government debt.  The most innovative area was probably in industrial policy, where after the 1880s and again in the 1930s in response to severe shocks, quite creative institutional policies were adopted.  In particular financial restructuring was used as an opportunity to reshape the structure of industry.

JEL Codes: N23, N24, N73, N74

Keywords: Comparative economic history, Industrial policy, Monetary, Policy, Monetary regime, Trade policy

Reference: 094

Individual View


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