Time and work in England 1750-1830 /

"Did working hours in England increase as a result of the Industrial Revolution? Marx said so, and so did E.P. Thompson; but where was the evidence to support this belief? Literary source are difficult to interpret, wage books are few and hardly representative, and clergymen writing about the s...

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Main Author: Voth, Hans-Joachim. (Author)
Format: Book
Published:Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York Oxford University Press, 2000.
Series:Oxford historical monographs.
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Voth (King's College, UK) furnishes new evidence for pessimism about the first industrial revolution. Norman Crafts raised doubts years ago by finding that technological change added little to British growth from 1760 to 1830. Now Voth rejects the theory of innovative "take-off" by arguing that output grew simply because British workers worked more. They gave up various holidays, including St. Monday, and by the early 19th century were spending roughly 20 per cent more time on the job than they had in 1760. Voth also estimates minuscule growth in per capita consumption during the period by treating leisure as a commodity and finding less of it. His new data on work habits come from the testimony of more than 2,800 witnesses at the Old Bailey who happened to comment on their use of time. The evidence, Voth admits, has its limitations. But his discoveries revive the suspicion that merry old England really did disappear behind the walls of satanic mills. And he supports more recent observations by Jan De Vries about an "industrious revolution" and by Paul Krugman about "Stalinist growth." The study has a useful bibliography and is intended for students who can follow the technical arguments of cliometrics. Recommended for upper-division undergraduate through faculty collections. G. F. Steckley Knox College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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