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Evolution or revolution? a study of price and wage volatility in England, 1200-1900

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Abstract

Using annual data 1209-1914, this paper examines whether there are structural breaks in the movements of prices and wages that correspond to the major ‘revolutions’ identified in historical narratives. Econometric modelling of trend and volatility in prices and wages confirms the importance of the Commercial Revolution and the Glorious Revolution, but suggests that the Industrial Revolution may be better described in evolutionary terms. The evidence also points to a late medieval revolution at the time of the Good Parliament, shortly after the Black Death and just before the Peasant’s Revolt. This supports Britnell and Campbell’s commercialisation hypothesis - that the institutional pre-conditions for the Industrial Revolution began to develop at a very early date.

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