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The Occupational Structure of England c.1750-1871
A Preliminary Report

L. Shaw-Taylor and E.A. Wrigley

It is widely supposed that the industrializing regions of north-west England (Lancashire and the West Riding) experienced a rapid increase in the relative importance of secondary sector employment between 1760 and 1830. However a large-scale analysis of occupational data for the period 1750-1871 shows that in fact the rise in the relative importance of secondary sector employment in the north-west took place during the early modern period and actually declined slightly over the classic 'industrial revolution' period. After 1815, some other parts of the country experienced the rapid increase in secondary sector employment usually assumed to have characterised the industrial districts between 1760 and 1830. In contrast, the growth of service sector employment (especially transport) was dramatic and continuous in all regions of England from the late eighteenth century onwards. Nationally there was more growth in the secondary sector between 1500 and 1750 than there was between 1750 and 1850. These findings necessitate some rethinking of the first industrial revolution, its causes and its consequences. Not least, these findings finally resolve the long-standing controversy as to whether the first industrial revolution was a relatively short dramatic event or a more protracted process. The evidence in favour of the latter view is now overwhelming.

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