Theory, Networks, History
Chapter 11: Entrepreneurship in Victorian Britain with Andrew Godley
11. Entrepreneurship in Victorian Britain With Andrew Godley There are two common misunderstandings about the economy in Victorian Britain, which this chapter attempts to correct. The first is that economic growth was driven by the expansion of manufacturing industry – and in particular by the textile industries of the north – and the second is that the quality of entrepreneurship declined after the mid-nineteenth century. The two misunderstandings are related, and they have a common cause in a lack of proper appreciation of the economic role of the entrepreneur. Victorian entrepreneurship became increasingly specialized in the finance and management of large-scale projects – first in Britain itself, and then in the empire. These projects related to railways, shipping, mining and agriculture rather than to manufacturing. Within manufacturing it was the engineering trades that provided mechanical equipment for these projects that prospered most. More so than the textile industry itself, which, because it was based on the import and re-export of cotton, was always potentially vulnerable to overseas competition. Project promotion was supported by a growing range of specialized service industries, linked to professions such as law and accountancy, and centred on the imperial metropolis – London. The most profitable way to exploit these professional skills was by exporting capital and labour to settler economies, where large-scale projects could generate cheap supplies of minerals for industry, and food for the urban population back home. It was only after 1900 that the grand ‘Project of Empire’ began to encounter serious problems and that domestic economic growth...
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