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 6: Forerunners of Marshall on the Industrial Districts

Peter Groenewegen


Peter Groenewegen 1. Introduction Marshall’s discovery of the economic significance of industrial districts (IDs) probably came from two sources. His travels through industrial areas from the 1860s are one (Groenewegen 1995, pp. 187–9, 206–7, 208–13); the other is Marshall’s reading. This chapter concentrates on several works whose contents probably assisted Marshall in reaching a specific stance on the notion of IDs. The first is W.E.Hearn’s Plutology (1864) with its interesting chapter on ‘industrial organization’ (Pesciarelli 1999). The second is Herbert Spencer’s First Principles and its detailed observations on industrial organization, including the geographical clustering of related firms. Thirdly, there are the writings of R.W.C.Taylor devoted to the factory system (Taylor 1842, 1886, 1891, 1894). Sargant (1857, pp.108–9, 111) can also be briefly noted in this context. All these works were in Marshall’s personal library (Marshall Library of Economics 1927, pp.37, 73, 80, 83). 2. Hearn on industrial organization Hearn’s chapter in Plutology on industrial organization (Hearn 1864, Chapter XVII) argued that when a large community of industry had been ‘spontane ously’ organized: a new phenomenon presents itself. The same separation which takes place between different occupations takes place also between different locations. The various branches of industry exhibit a strong tendency to fix themselves in, and confine themselves to, particular districts. Each district therefore acquires a distinctive character, and at the same time becomes dependent upon the other districts with which it deals. In England, this localization of industry is particularly marked. The manufacture of cotton,...

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