Seven Centuries of Unreal Wages

  • John HatcherEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


This chapter launches an assault on the virtually universal dependence on illusory estimates of living standards across many centuries and a multitude of countries. It demonstrates that these crucial measures have been built on the extremely narrow and flimsy foundations of unreliable long-run series of the day wages paid to males employed on large-scale ‘heritage’ building projects and to predominantly part-time agricultural labourers, combined with casual and conflicting speculations on the number of days they worked each year. Among the many threads disentangled in this chapter is the misguided belief that these highly selective data can serve as proxies for average incomes, and hence the living standards, of whole populations across seven centuries of profound economic and social change. They have also led to the wholesale neglect of the contribution of wives and children to household income and of the self-employed and non-wage earners to national income.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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