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The course and character of late-Victorian British exports

Varian, Brian (2017) The course and character of late-Victorian British exports. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.phkrlz7sb6vq


In this dissertation, I examine the inter-temporal variation (course) and the composition (character) of late-Victorian British exports. The first substantive chapter focuses specifically on Anglo-American trade, which was the largest bilateral flow of trade during the first era of globalization, and finds that tariffs were the sole inter-temporal determinant of Anglo-American trade costs. The determinacy of tariffs for Anglo-American trade costs only becomes apparent when the tariff variable incorporates a measure of the bilateral American tariff toward Britain, which I purposely reconstruct. I conclude that Anglo-American trade represents a major qualification to any emerging consensus that foreign tariffs were of minor significance to the trade of late nineteenth-century Britain. The next chapter reassesses the empirical validity of the Ford thesis, which argued that a short-term causal relationship between British ex ante lending and British merchandise exports operated in the late nineteenth century. Using more recent data on bilateral British lending, I find evidence of a ‘lending-export loop’, with British ex ante lending preceding merchandise exports by a period of two years. A case study of New Zealand, which had an extraordinarily high share of Britain in its imports, reveals that the relationship was conditional upon the lending being allocated to social overhead capital. In the final substantive chapter, I construct indicators of revealed comparative advantage for British manufacturing industries for the years 1880, 1890, and 1900. In contrast with previous research, I argue that the manufacturing comparative advantages of late-Victorian Britain rested in the relatively labour non-intensive industries, and this finding remains robust even after controlling for human capital intensity. Furthermore, the manufacturing comparative advantages were neutral with respect to material intensity. While the share of inter-industry (Heckscher-Ohlin) trade in Britain’s total manufacturing trade declined throughout the late-Victorian era, it still accounted for the majority of Britain’s manufacturing trade in the 1890s.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Brian Douglas Varian
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Rosés, Joan and Minns, Chris

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