Manufacturing and technological change

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THE SHAPE AND COURSE OF BRITISH MANUFACTURING The global economic leadership that Britain enjoyed in the nineteenth century had its foundations in the nation's unprecedented industrial capability. To many Victorians and Edwardians this was a fact of life; it followed almost inexorably that should the uniqueness of that capability ever be lost, Britain's international pre-eminence would also be forfeited and decline ensue. The progress of manufacturing was seen as pivotal to Britain's economic fate. To a large extent, this is also how Britain's decline has been cast in much of the economic history literature, where industrial decline and economic decline are taken as synonymous. As the manufacturing sector was a major employer that provided the vast majority of Britain's exports and was where the full brunt of the growing international competition was felt, it seems a reasonable focal point for the historical analysis of Britain's relative economic decline. To some, the significance of manufacturing, because of its dynamic properties and integral place in the process of technological change, goes well beyond the size of its static contribution to national product. In this view, both economic growth and productivity are seen to be crucially determined by the expansion of the manufacturing sector (Kaldor 1966). Whether such a relationship applies in the late Victorian and Edwardian period is investigated later in the chapter, but it should be noted here that, despite the growing foreign challenge, manufacturing's place in the British economy was not in fact contracting. Rather, as Table 4.1 illustrates, its share of national output and the capital stock actually grew over the second half of the nineteenth century, while its share of employment remained constant.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain Volume II
Subtitle of host publicationEconomic Maturity, 1860-1939
EditorsRoderick Floud, Paul Johnson
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139054539
ISBN (Print)0521820375, 9780521820370
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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