Why was the First Industrial Revolution English? Roman Real Wages and the Little Divergence within Europe Reconsidered
400/2019 Mauro Rota and Jacob Weisdorf
We compare early-modern Roman construction wages to Judy Stephenson’s downward-adjusted construction wages for London. We find that Roman workers earned at least as much as their London counterparts in the run-up to the Industrial Revolution, challenging the high-wage-economy explanation for why the Industrial Revolution was English and not Italian. We argue, however, that daily construction wages present a poor testing ground for the high-wage hypothesis, proposing instead that wages are compared among permanent employees in sectors less prone to seasonality and economic fluctuations than construction work.