In Search of the Average Craftsman: Understanding Skilled Work and Wages in the Early Modern Building Trades and Wider Economy

  • Judy Z. StephensonEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


The figures from London building accounts 1650–1800 that have been collected as ‘wages’ are no such thing. This chapter describes how skill and pay really worked in the London construction industry and asks whether Bowley’s assumptions about building craftsmen and the average worker can be upheld.

Online Resources

  1. ‘Warrant Books: April 1715, 21–30’, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 29, 1714–1715, ed. William A Shaw and F H Slingsby (London, 1957), pp. 490–498. British History Online [accessed 3 May 2018].

Archival Material

  1. Westminster Abbey Muniments, Christopher Wren Fabric Books, 34513, 34514.Google Scholar
  2. The National Archives series WORK 5/ esp 67, WORK6/46, C 106/145.Google Scholar
  3. London Metropolitan Archive COL/CC/BHC/ 10 003 – 006.Google Scholar
  4. British Library MS27587.Google Scholar


  1. Airs, Malcolm. 1975. The Making of the English Country House, 1500–1640. London: Architectural Press.Google Scholar
  2. Angeles, Luis. 2008. GDP Per Capita or Real Wages? Making Sense of Conflicting Views on Pre-industrial Europe. Explorations in Economic History 45 (2): 147–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayres, James. 1998. Building the Georgian City, p. vii. 280. New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Boulton, Jeremy. 1996. Wage Labour in Seventeenth-Century London. Economic History Review 49 (2): 268–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowley, Arthur L. 1900. Wages in the United Kingdom in the Nineteenth Century: Notes for the Use of Students of Social and Economic Questions, vi p., 1 l., 148 p. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Broadberry, Stephen, et al. 2015. British Economic Growth 1270–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, E.H. Phelps, and Sheila V. Hopkins. 1955. Seven Centuries of Building Wages. Economica 22 (87): 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, James W.P. 2005. The Finances of the Carpenter in England 1660–1710: A Case Study on the Implications of the Change from Craft to Designer-Based Construction. In L’Edilizia Prima della Rivoluzione Industriale. Secc. XIII–XVIII, ed. Simonetta Cavaciocchi, 313–346. Prato: Instituto Internazionale di Storia Economica.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, James W.P. 2007. Building St Paul’s. London: Metheun.Google Scholar
  10. Colvin, Howard Montagu, et al. 1976. The History of the King’s Works Vol. V, 1660–1782, 6 vols. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  11. Erickson, Amy Louise. 2008. Married Women’s Occupations in Eighteenth-Century London. Continuity and Change 23 (2): 267–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Feinstein, Charles H. 1998. Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and After the Industrial Revolution. The Journal of Economic History 58 (3): 625–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilboy, Elizabeth. 1934. Wages in Eighteenth Century England. Vol. 297. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Humphries, Jane. 2013. The Lure of Aggregates and the Pitfalls of the Patriarchal Perspective: A Critique of the High Wage Economy Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution. The Economic History Review 66 (3): 693–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Knoop, Douglas, and G. Jones. 1935. The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century … Issued in advance of “Ars Quatuor Coronatorum”, vol. xlviii, Part i. London: Manchester University Press/Quatuor Coronati.Google Scholar
  16. Latham, Mark. 2015. ‘The City Has Been Wronged and Abused!’: Institutional Corruption in the Eighteenth Century. The Economic History Review 68 (3): 1038–1061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McKellar, Elizabeth 1999. The Birth of Modern London. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  18. de Pleijt, A., and J. Weisdorf. 2016. Human Capital Formation from Occupations: The ‘Deskilling Hypothesis’ Revisited. Cliometrica 11 (1): 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pollard, Sidney. 1965. The Genesis of Modern Management: A Study of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  20. Powell, Christopher G. 1980. An Economic History of the British Building Industry 1815–1979. London: The Architectural Press.Google Scholar
  21. Schwarz, Leonard D. 1985. The Standard of Living in the Long Run: London, 1700–1860. The Economic History Review 38 (1): 24–41.Google Scholar
  22. Webb, Cliff. 1996. London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers, Abstracted and Indexed by Cliff Webb, vol. 27. Mason’s Company 1663–1800. London: Society of Genealogists.Google Scholar
  23. Woodward, Donald. 1994. The Determination of Wage Rates in the Early Modern North of England. Economic History Review 47 (1): 22–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. ———. 1995. Men at Work: Labourers and Building Craftsmen in the Towns of Northern England, 1450–1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wren Society. 1924–43. vols. I–XX. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wadham College, University of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations