There have been only two basic economic regimes in history. Until perhaps 1800 all societies were in the Malthusian regime with slow productivity growth, and fertility-determined living standards. Then came the Industrial Revolution and the world of modern growth, with rapid and persistent productivity gains. Recently economists have constructed many theoretical models to explain this transition. A void exists, however, between theory and empirics. While models have multiplied, we are still ignorant of the economic aggregates for any country before 1830. Even in England, the best-documented pre-industrial economy, there are no national income estimates before 1700. Those for 1700-1860 are weakly based, and were last significantly improved in 1985. The materials exist, however, to estimate all the major economic aggregates for England to 1260, including skilled and unskilled wages, land rents, capital returns, real output, output per capita, factor shares, aggregate Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth rates, TFP growth for many sectors of the economy, and tax revenues. English institutional stability allowed much better survival of records than elsewhere. And many of these materials are accessible because of earlier incomplete efforts to assemble price and wage histories of England, such as those of Rogers and Beveridge. This project completes that task. The investigator has been working on estimating these aggregates for a number of years. He has completed papers on many of the components needed: agricultural wages (1210-1869), house rents (1550-1869), the housing stock (1550- 1869), farmland rents (1210-1869), prices for 22 farm outputs (1500-1869), returns on capital (1150-1869), days worked per worker (1560-1869). This project would seek first the completion of the required series, adding fresh archival information where necessary. Second it will put them together to form the national aggregates. The resulting series, the national economic aggregates for England all the way from 1260 to 1860, as well as the underlying data, will be made available to scholars through a web page.

The preliminary estimates are surprising. The break in TFP productivity growth rates circa 1770 is much less dramatic than has been assumed. More dramatic accelerations in TFP growth rates can be observed: first around 1600 and second around 1860. Also before 1860 the connection between the underlying rate of technological innovation and TFP advance depended on largely accidental factors. Further there are important changes in variables like rates of return on capital and the skill wage premium long before the Industrial Revolution period.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Daniel H. Newlon
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University of California Davis
United States
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