The Myth of the Great Depression, 1873–1896 (Studies in by S. B. Saul

By S. B. Saul

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Pollard, 'Wages and Earnings in the Sheffield Trades 1851-1914', Yorkshire Bulletin of &onomic and Social Research, VI (1954) p. 59. 32 employment and the rate of change of money wage rates suggests that when the demand for labour is high employers bid up wages, but that workers are reluctant to offer their services at less than the prevailing rates when unemployment is high and so wage rates fall only slowly. 1 In years of rising activity, such as the early 1870s with the demand for labour rising and the percentage of unemployed falling, employers were bidding for labour more vigorously and wages rose more quickly than if the average percentage of unemployment were the same but the demand for labour not increasing.

True, there were large imports of butter and cheese, but this was offset by the buoyant home market for liquid milk. Imported meat, live or frozen, competed only with low-quality home meat. Between the late 1860s and the mid-1890s the price of best English beef fell by 11 per cent and of mutton and lamb by 8 per cent; imported meat fell by 25 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. They clearly catered for two quite different markets. Prices of meat products in Britain fell less than prices in general and did not commence even that modest decline until the mid-1880s.

Imported meat, live or frozen, competed only with low-quality home meat. Between the late 1860s and the mid-1890s the price of best English beef fell by 11 per cent and of mutton and lamb by 8 per cent; imported meat fell by 25 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. They clearly catered for two quite different markets. Prices of meat products in Britain fell less than prices in general and did not commence even that modest decline until the mid-1880s. The shift from arable to livestock was in any case not new; the change to a more mixed pattern of farming had been distinct during the 1850s and 1860s but now moved forward at greater speed.

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