The spinning jenny

A fresh look

Robert (Bob) Allen

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Abstract

    In "The Industrial Revolution in Miniature, " I calculated that the spinning jenny was profitable to install in England in the 1780s but not in France.1 My calculations assumed that a spinner using a wheel in a domestic setting worked a total of 100 days per year and spun 100 pounds of coarse cotton (one pound per day). The jenny raised labor productivity to three pounds per day in the "most likely" scenario. I showed that it would have been cheaper to spin 100 pounds per year with a jenny than with a wheel in England, while the reverse would have been true in France. Hence, the jenny was installed in England rather than France. Ugo Gragnolati, Daniele Moschella, and Emanuele Pugliese have pointed out that this argument assumes that output was kept at 100 pounds per year, and the effect of the jenny was to reduce the spinner's work year to only 33-1/3 days per year.2 They suggest that it was more likely that the spinner would have continued to work 100 days per year and produce 300 pounds of yarn instead. In that case, they argue, it would have been profitable to install the jenny in France as well as England. Profitability would have increased in both countries under these assumptions because capital costs would have been cut by a third if three times as much output was produced from the same capital (although profitability was still much higher in England). Hence, they conclude that economic considerations do not explain the diffusion of the jenny.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)461-464
    Number of pages4
    JournalJournal of Economic History
    Volume71
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

    Fingerprint

    England
    France
    Profitability
    Wheel
    Labour Productivity
    Economics
    Costs
    1780s
    Scenarios
    Industrial Revolution
    Cut
    Cotton
    Labour productivity
    Capital cost
    Industrial revolution

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)

    Cite this

    The spinning jenny : A fresh look. / Allen, Robert (Bob).

    In: Journal of Economic History, Vol. 71, No. 2, 01.06.2011, p. 461-464.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Allen, Robert (Bob). / The spinning jenny : A fresh look. In: Journal of Economic History. 2011 ; Vol. 71, No. 2. pp. 461-464.
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