Type

Working Paper

Authors

Cormac Ó Gráda
Morgan Kelly

Subjects

Economics

Topics
adam smith mass growth rate nineteenth century labour productivity industrial revolution watch prices

Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution (2015)

Abstract Although largely absent from modern accounts of the Industrial Revolution, watches were the first mass produced consumer durable, and were Adam Smith’s pre-eminent example of technological progress. In fact, Smith makes the notable claim that watch prices may have fallen by up to 95 per cent over the preceding century; a claim that this paper attempts to evaluate. We look at changes in the reported value of over 3,200 stolen watches from records of criminal trials in the Old Bailey court in London from 1685 to 1810. Before allowing for quality improvements we find that the real price of watches in nearly all categories falls steadily by 1.3 per cent per year, equivalent to a fall of 75 per cent over a century, a rate considerably above the growth rate of average labour productivity in British industry in the early nineteenth century.
Collections Ireland -> University College Dublin -> Economics Working Papers & Policy Papers
Ireland -> University College Dublin -> School of Economics
Ireland -> University College Dublin -> College of Social Sciences and Law

Full list of authors on original publication

Cormac Ó Gráda, Morgan Kelly

Experts in our system

1
Cormac Ó Gráda
University College Dublin
Total Publications: 193
 
2
Morgan Kelly
University College Dublin
Total Publications: 37