The Standard of Living Debate

  • Neil Tonge
  • Michael Quincey
Part of the Documents and Debates book series (DD)


Whether the standard of living of the labouring classes rose or fell during the initial stages of the Industrial Revolution is, of all the controversies of this period, the hardest fought. Yet, on the surface, there seems to be no argument against the fact that the national income per capita doubled between 1791–1851. This would naturally lead us to assume that the standard of living of the mass of the people improved. However, one needs to know:
  1. 1

    the proportion of national income diverted from consumption to investment, which, in turn, depends on:

  2. 2

    what proportion of consumption was going to property owners (rents and profits) and how much to workers (wages and salaries).



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Further reading

  1. R. M. Hartwell (ed.), The Industrial Revolution (1967);Google Scholar
  2. E. J. Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire (1970);Google Scholar
  3. P. Mathias, The First Industrial Nation (1969);Google Scholar
  4. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1966);Google Scholar
  5. M. W. Flinn, ‘Trends in Real Wages 1750–1850’, English Historical Review, Vol XXVII, Aug. 1974, PP 395–413.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Neil Tonge and Michael Quincey 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Tonge
  • Michael Quincey

There are no affiliations available

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