chapter  6
39 Pages

1 Estimates of labour productivity

Our comparison of levels of productivity attained by labour employed by British and French industry (see Table 4 .3 , p. 9 1 above) seems more difficult to reconcile with standard historiography than any other set of estimates generated by this exercise in quantification. Historians might be willing to accept the superior productivity of labour employed in French industry before the Revolution . But few will readily believe in statistics which indicate that output per worker in French industry as a whole remained above British levels throughout the Industrial Revolu­ tion and that the British 'lag' (while diminishing steadily in relative terms) persisted into the 1 890s. Prima facie, our figures seem to threaten the whole paradigm of a first Industrial Revolution and its diffusion to backward 'follower countries' on the European mainland .