War and Society

Do you agree with Pat Hudson’s argument in her chapter ‘the Economy and the
State’?
In this chapter Pat Hudson focuses on economic growth during the industrial
revolution, she questions whether or not this growth was as extreme as
previously thought, and why it came about. She also discusses the role the
state played economically and its contribution both commercially and
industrially. She puts forward a convincing argument, which highlights the
issues surrounding the debate over whether or not the term industrial
revolution is an exaggeration of the economic changes that occurred in
Britain during this period. I agreewithherargumentandher
interpretation of the data she uses as evidence.


The first step Hudson takes to support this argument is to look at new
estimates of economic change produced in the last ten years such as GDP
growth and industrial output. She puts forward the arguments used by Harley
in 1982 and of Wrigley and Schofield against Deane and Cole’s figures in
the sixties. These arguments state that dean and Cole had relied too
heavily on import and export figures to work out growth, and that
population growth had begun earlier than they thought. This is crucial in
calculating the rate of economic growth.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now


Hudson then discusses the revisions of occupational structure in the
eighteenth century, which were carried out by Lindert and Williamson. They
used data on wages and burial records to show that the previous estimates
by Gregory King had been influenced in favour to agriculture. Crafts then
brought together many of these new estimates and incorporated them with his
own. He suggested that productivity growth was very slow up until 1830.He
also states that TFP grew very slowly and was influenced by agriculture,
not industry. Hudson brings up the common argument against the idea of an
industrial revolution concerning the textile industry. Cotton was a small
sector of the industrial world, yet it is thought that it accounted for
around half of all productivity change in manufacturing.


Next Hudson brings in a completely different argument to show the limits of
economic growth, one that disagrees with Craft. J.G. Williamson argues that
the high growth and productivity levels thatCraftattributedto
agriculture would have caused de-industrialisation. Williamson instead
considers the slowing down of British industrialisation was due to the
failure of the labour and capital markets, as in the difference between
urban and rural wages. He believes that the capital market failed due to
the investments made during the Napoleonic wars, which inhibited growth and
contributed to the poor living standards suffered by the working class.

However unlike Craft he considers the period to be one of dramatic change
and innovation, even if labour shortages and debt slowed it down.


Hudson also addresses the issue of the unreliability of data from this
period. The modern way of measuring economic activity is by analysing
national income, this can be unreliable today, however it is even more so
when applied to economics during the nineteenth and early twentieth
century, which were considerably underdeveloped. Its unreliability is
increased further due to the scarceness of reliable data. Hudson goes on to
give examples of productivity calculations and show how they differ. The
burial records that are used by historians for occupational data are also
not to be relied on, as they do not record the occupations of either women
or children even although their contributiontotheeconomywas
substantial. The records also neglect to define occupations such as
‘labourer’ or ‘gentleman’. Hudson emphasised how much ofthedata
completely underestimates activity in numerous occupations. Some of it even
leaves out industries that were growing fast, and were vital in the new
urban Britain such as glass, lead, metalwork and food processing.


The author also addresses the subject of labour division; this is an
important factor in the argument. Some historians believe thatthe
industrial revolution was down to changes in labour, such as shift work and
division of labour and tasks, thus reducingcostsandincreasing
productivity, all with limited use of technology. There was also a massive
change in lifestyle as more people than ever before were city dwellers,
this provided a large labour market including women and children.


Hudson then goes on to discuss the role the state plays concerning economic
change. In the nineteenth century Britain was economically superior to the
rest of the world, she possessed a near monopoly of the overseas market as
well as being a major military power with a huge empire. However the loans
acquired by the state during the wars were responsible for the majority of
the financial problems later on in the century. The state dealt with this
by heavily taxing goods and imposing income tax. The state contributed to
the economic growth because of this tax, even although it became more
difficult to impose tax on trade goods due to smuggling and evasion. War
also played an important part in the growth of many industries such as
textiles and hardware, and more importantly the outcome of the wars
increased demand for British goods, so exports significantly increased.


In this chapter Hudson puts forward different interpretations of the
effects the Napoleonic wars had on the economy. Craft is of the view that
wartime had very limited effects on key sectors of the economy while
Williamson blames the wars for the slow growth of the economy during the
industrial revolution. Some economic historians feel that the economy would
not have slumped had it not been for the wars, i.e. if it had continued to
grow at the rate it did before the war.Hudson states that wartime
increases in customs duties did not have a harmful effect on most major
industries, and it had a commercialising effect on agriculture.


Pat Hudson’s approach to economics during the period of the industrial
revolution is becoming more common as new theories are put forward and old
ones questioned. She approaches the issues covered in this chapter from
many perspectives, and does not deny that despite the debates this was a
period of change that would set the course for today’sinnovative
technological world.