A Handbook of Industrial Districts
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A Handbook of Industrial Districts

Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis

In this comprehensive original reference work, the editors have brought together an unrivalled group of distinguished scholars and practitioners to comment on the historical and contemporary role of industrial districts (IDs).
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Chapter 4: The Emergence and Development of Industrial Districts in Industrialising England, 1750–1914

Andrew Popp and John F. Wilson


Andrew Popp and John F. Wilson 1. Introduction In its industrial and business dimensions, the industrial revolution in England was a grass-roots, bottom-up and essentially undirected process in which the formation of industrial districts (IDs) played a fundamental and formative role. The formation and development of these districts reflected micro-processes taking place at the regional and subregional level. Thus, it can be argued that 18th-century England was the birthplace of the ID as a concrete form of industrial organisation and as a historically-located socio-economic phenomenon. Similarly, late 19th-century England was the birthplace of the ID concept, as witnessed in the pioneering work of Alfred Marshall (1919). Nonetheless, English IDs have been relatively neglected, both in the historiography of English industrialisation and in the wider theoretical and empirical literature on the ID concept. This chapter will trace and seek to explain the emergence and development of IDs in England in the period 1750–1914. In addition, the chapter will seek to assess the wider contribution to be made to the development of the ID concept through a study of the English districts. The chapter will be structured in five sections. Section 1 is introductory and will state and justify claims for the centrality of IDs to the process and experi ence of industrialisation in England from the mid-18th century onwards. In so doing, we will explore the place of IDs in the historiography of English in dustrialisation and of the part they played in Marshall’s initial formulation of the ID concept....

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