Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Consumer Revolution: Turning Point in Human History, or Statistical Artifact?

Clark, Gregory (2010): The Consumer Revolution: Turning Point in Human History, or Statistical Artifact?

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Abstract

A Farewell to Alms argued based on wages, rents and returns on capital that the English by 1800 were no wealthier than in 1400. An argument against this has been the supposed consumer revolution of 1600-1750. Since ordinary families by 1750 begin routinely consuming former luxury goods, income must have risen much faster than wages through a concomitant industrious revolution. This paper argues that the consumer and industrious revolutions of 1600-1750 are artifacts created by misinterpreting the major source on consumption in these years, probate inventories. Properly interpreted there is no conflict between wages, income and consumption in England 1600-1750.

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