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Synopsis Both contemporaries and later historians viewed the Industrial Revolution as a 'turning point' in modern British history. No doubt a change occurred, but what was the nature of that change and how did it affect rural and urban society?
In this, the first part of his two-volume history of nineteenth-century Britain, Richard Brown examines the economic and social aspects of the Industrial Revolution in the larger context of British history. Treating developments in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as those in England, Society and Economy in Modern Britain is distinguished by its emphasis on the diversity of experience -- the continuity as well as change -- in this crucial period of development. Ideal textbooks for the study of British nineteenth-century history, both Society and Economy in Modern Britain and Church and State in Modern Britain are written in a lively andaccessible style.
Taken as a pair, they provide a comprehensive look at the social ramifications of technological change. Daunton Oxford University Press, Read preview Overview.
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And, on balance, consumers today appear to be losing out. The researchers examine mark-ups ie, selling prices divided by production costs. Since the s the average mark-up in Britain has risen by more than in Europe or North America. More firms are charging big mark-ups and fewer merely breaking even see chart 2.
Consumers, in other words, are paying more than they should be. The ratio of overall corporate profits to GDP is well above its long-run historical average, but there has not been the large, recent rise in corporate profitability seen across the pond.
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The British story is subtler. The distribution of those profits seems to have become more skewed, with successful firms enjoying bigger profits and the rest seeing relative decline. It also seems increasingly tough to break into markets and compete away the high profits enjoyed by an incumbent.
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Firms that do not fear competition may not offer the best service or lowest prices. It is less clear how concentration affects workers. Evidence from America suggests that as firms become more powerful they can get away with offering lower wages, since workers have fewer alternative employers. The Resolution Foundation paper suggests that, across Britain as a whole, the biggest firms actually employ a lower share of employees than in the early s.
In parts of the country, however, workers do appear to have fewer options than before. Whatever the explanation, wages as a share of GDP have fallen during the same period. British capitalism could become still more concentrated. Join them. Subscribe to The Economist today. Media Audio edition Economist Films Podcasts.
New to The Economist? Sign up now Activate your digital subscription Manage your subscription Renew your subscription. Topics up icon. Blogs up icon. Current edition. Audio edition. Economist Films. The Economist apps. More up icon. More money, more problems The British economy is becoming more concentrated and less competitive Consumers are paying higher prices than they should; workers are being paid less.