Ciliberto, Federico (2009): Were British Cotton Entrepreneurs Technologically Backward? Firm-Level Evidence on the Adoption of Ring-Spinning. Published in: Explorations in Economic History
Download (161kB) | Preview
I study the slow adoption of ring spinning in Great Britain's cotton industry at the end of the 19th century, which has been used as evidence of British entrepreneurs' declining efficiency and conservatism (Musson, 1959; Aldcroft, 1964; Lazonick, 1981, 1981b). To this purpose I use firm-level data from all of Lancashire's cotton firms over several years. The data are from Worrall's The Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers' Directory for the years 1885, 1886–1887, 1890, 1894, 1902, and 1910. First, I show that the vertical organization of the industry, with its firms specializing in spinning or weaving, did not act as an impediment to the adoption of the ring spinning technology, as was argued by Lazonick. In particular, I show the following: i) non-integrated firms were the first to adopt rings in Great Britain; ii) the large majority of firms that adopted rings were incumbents; iii) vertically integrated firms that were spinning only either twist or weft yarn were still in existence in 1910; and iv) only a negligible number of firms changed their organizational structure upon adopting ring spinning. I also show that a large fraction of firms installed very small numbers of ring spindles upon the adoption of ring spinning, suggesting that firms were slowly adopting ring spindles to replace old mule spindles rather than transitioning over to ring spinning at a single point in time. Then, I show that the rate at which vertically integrated firms adopted rings suddenly accelerated after 1902. I interpret this as evidence that British entrepreneurs were fully aware of the technological complementarities between rings and automatic looms. These complementarities could only be fully exploited by vertically integrated firms.
|Item Type:||MPRA Paper|
|Original Title:||Were British Cotton Entrepreneurs Technologically Backward? Firm-Level Evidence on the Adoption of Ring-Spinning.|
|Keywords:||Ring Spinning, Technology Adoption, Cotton Industry, Lancashire, Vertical Integration, Specialization.|
|Subjects:||N - Economic History > N6 - Manufacturing and Construction > N63 - Europe: Pre-1913
L - Industrial Organization > L6 - Industry Studies: Manufacturing > L67 - Other Consumer Nondurables: Clothing, Textiles, Shoes, and Leather Goods; Household Goods; Sports Equipment
L - Industrial Organization > L2 - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior > L22 - Firm Organization and Market Structure
|Depositing User:||Federico Ciliberto|
|Date Deposited:||11. Sep 2010 10:01|
|Last Modified:||05. Jan 2016 13:55|
Aldcroft, D.H., 1964. The entrepreneur and the British economy, 1870–1914. Economic History Review 2nd. ser. 17, 113–134.
Broadberry, S., Marrison, A., 2002. External economies of scale in the Lancashire cotton industry, 1900–1939. Economic History Review 55, 51–77.
Cotton Manufactures, 1912. Report of the Tariff Board on Schedule I of the Tariff Law. House of Representatives, Washington.
Farnie, Douglas, 1979. The English Cotton Industry and the World Market. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Farnie, D.A., 2004. The role of merchants as the prime movers in the expansion of the cotton industry, 1760–1990. In: Farnie, D.A., Jeremy, D.J. (Eds.), The Fibre that Changed the World: The Cotton Industry in International Perspective, 1600–1990s. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 15–56.
Gatrell, V.A.C., 1977. Labour, power, and the size of firms in Lancashire cotton in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Economic History Review 2nd. ser., 30, 95–139 February.
Huberman, Michael, 1990. Vertical disintegration in Lancashire: a Comment on Temin. The Journal of Economic History 50 (3) September.
Jewkes, J., 1930. The localisation of the cotton industry. Economic Review 2 January.
Lazonick, William, 1981a. Factor costs and the diffusion of ring spinning in Britain prior to World War I. Quarterly Journal of Economics 96 (1), 89–109.
Lazonick, William, 1981b. Production relations, labor productivity, and choice of technique: British and US cotton spinning. Journal of Economic History 41 (3), 491–516.
Lazonick, William, 1984. Rings and mules in Britain: reply. Quarterly Journal of Economics (2), 393–398.
Lazonick, William, 1987. Stubborn mules: some comments. Economic History Review 2nd. ser. (40) (1), 80–86.
Timothy Leunig, The Myth of the Corporate Economy, Unpublished Dissertation, Nuffield College, Oxford University, 1996.
Leunig, Timothy, 2001. New answers to old questions: explaining the slow adoption of ring spinning in Lancashire, 1880–1913. Journal of Economic History 61 (2).
Leunig, Timothy, 2003. A British industrial success: productivity in the Lancashire and New England cotton spinning industries a century ago. Economic History Review LVI (1), 90–117.
Mass, W., Lazonick, W., 1990. The British cotton industry and international comparative advantage: the state of the debates. Business History 32 (4), 9–65.
McCloskey, Deirdre, Sandberg, Lars, 1971. From damnation to redemption: judgments on the late Victorian entrepreneur. Explorations in Economic History 9 (1), 89–108 Republished in Deirdre McCloskey, Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain, Allen & Unwin, London, 1981.
Mokyr, J., 2001. The rise and fall of the factory system: technology, firms, and households since the industrial revolution. Carnegie–Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy 55, 1–45 December.
Musson, A.E., 1959. The great depression in Britain, 1873–1896: a reappraisal. Journal of Economic History 19 (2), 199–228.
Robson, R., 1957. The Cotton Industry in Britain, Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London.
Sandberg, Lars, 1969. American rings and English mules: the role of economic rationality. Quarterly Journal of Economics 83 (1), 25–43.
Sandberg, Lars, 1974. Lancashire in Decline: a Study in Entrepreneurship, Technology, and International Trade. The Ohio State University Press.
Saxonhouse, Gary, Wright, Gavin, 1984. New evidence on the stubborn English mules and the cotton industry, 1878–1920. Economic History Review 37 (4), 507–519.
Saxonhouse, Gary, Wright, Gavin, 2010. National Leadership and Competing Technological Paradigms: The Globalization of Cotton Spinning, 1878–1933 (with Gary Saxonhouse). Journal of Economic History 70, 535–566.
Temin, Peter, 1990. Product quality and vertical integration in the early cotton textile industry: a reply. Journal of Economic History 50 (3) September.
Ure, Andrew, 1836. The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain, London.
Available Versions of this Item
Were British Cotton Entrepreneurs Technologically Backward? Firm-Level Evidence on the Adoption of Ring-Spinning. (deposited 11. Nov 2009 00:11)
- Were British Cotton Entrepreneurs Technologically Backward? Firm-Level Evidence on the Adoption of Ring-Spinning. (deposited 11. Sep 2010 10:01) [Currently Displayed]