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British Entrepreneurs and the decline of the British economy

Uploaded by Daryl Chambers on Dec 10, 2001

Was the British entrepreneur the most important single reason for the relative decline of the British economy in the late nineteenth century?



Despite a continued growth of production and wealth in absolute terms, the economy of "the first industrial nation" began to decelerate after 1870, in comparison with that of her closest competitors. This so called "decline" was caused by a number of factors not merely one as the question suggests, indeed Supple` s foreword (1) asks, "Are we to be concerned with the rate of growth of total income or of manufacturing output? Above all, by what standards do we assess `failure` or `success`?"

Derek Aldcroft` s article, `The Entrepreneur and the British economy, 1870-1914 published in 1964 spearheaded the broad indictment of the British entrepreneur…(2)…….

A/ They failed to adopt the best available techniques of production in many industries, ranging from ring-spinning and automatic weaving in cotton to the mechanical cutter and electrification of mines in coal.

B/ They underestimated the growing importance of science, investing little in laboratories and technical personnel for research or for the effective exploitation of foreign research.

C/ They over-invested in the old staple export industries such as cotton and iron, and were slow to move to the industries of the future such as chemicals, automobiles, and electrical engineering.

D/ They were bad salesmen, especially abroad.

E/ They were insufficiently aggressive in organising cartels to extract monopoly profits from the world a t large.

I intend to investigate these areas, in addition to labour relations, education and the class system, as I feel that they have a distinct bearing on the late Victorian economic climate.

The "technological retardist" theories are strongest in considering the erosion of “King Cotton` s” pre eminence, due in part to America` s competition and, the critics suggest, the British cotton manager` s lack of judgement. It is said that the slow adoption of the ring spindle in spinning, and the low uptake of the automatic loom in weaving seriously hampered those industries` competitive edge.

The principle advantage of the ring spindle was it` s operation by unskilled female staff, whereas the traditional mule required skilled (mostly male) operatives, thus saving on labour costs. The disadvantage was that the ring needed more expensive cotton to make a given `fineness` or `count`. Given this information, replacement of old existing technology should only be undertaken if the total cost of the new technology is less than the variable cost...

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Uploaded by:   Daryl Chambers

Date:   12/10/2001

Category:   European History

Length:   16 pages (3,538 words)

Views:   618

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