Machinery and horsepower prices, 1850-1913

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


The debate on the industrial revolution (IR) has been focused on the incentives behind investment decisions and how the preliminary conditions for it appeared in England / Great Britain. One of the most famous theories to explain the IR is the one developed by Allen (2012, 2009b,a), who argues that the IR was British due to a unique combination of expensive labour and cheap energy, producing incentives to invest in labour-saving machinery. His theory takes into account a vast literature on organic fuels and the transition to fossil fuels (WRIGLEY, 1962; Wrigley, 2013).Several works have proved the existence of cheap fossil fuels during the 19th century, determined by the introduction of coal. Even though the figures on wages and energy are broadly accepted, machinery price indices are challenged. The most widely used index is based almost completely on the price of iron (Feinstein, 1972, 1988). To prove Allen’s hypothesis we require a better index of machinery prices, measuring horsepower prices, relative costs and international changes in their trade. This article presents such a series, using novel data from merchants’ catalogues, international trade statistics plus all the price indices previously available. The new series corresponds to the UK in the period 1850 - 1913; given the influence of British Machinery & Equipment in the world market until 1913, this price index could be useful to understand the transformation of relative costs in several regions.JEL Codes: N13, N63, N70, O13, O14, O33.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History


  • machinery prices, machinery investment, industrial revolution, technological change
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 17
Publication categoryResearch
EventLund Economic History Seminar -
Duration: 2014 Oct 31 → …


ConferenceLund Economic History Seminar
Period2014/10/31 → …

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