From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries London grew from a relatively small city on the periphery of the European economy to become one of the largest metropolises in the world, and a global trading hub. This paper uses occupational data (primarily for men, although the nature of women’s work will ... (Show more)
From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries London grew from a relatively small city on the periphery of the European economy to become one of the largest metropolises in the world, and a global trading hub. This paper uses occupational data (primarily for men, although the nature of women’s work will be examined in detail for the period after 1851, when systematic data for them becomes available for the first time) to present an overview of how London’s workforce changed during this period. This will illustrate how London's economic function developed as Great Britain experienced the First Industrial Revolution. Understanding these trends requires a range of datasources, including legal records, baptismal and marriage registers, and the Census. These all have to be recalibrated and re-weighted to correct for their respective biases in order to gain a truly accurate picture of London's economic history.
Although early modern London’s economy has been much studied in the past, few historians have utilised datasets that accurately represent the entire metropolis, particularly for the period before the 1851 Census. This paper’s findings are based on a new analysis of sources that have previously not been systematically analysed. For the seventeenth century, this paper will use recognizances, which are legal records that recorded the occupations of the vast majority of men named in them; although there are skews in the data, they can be accounted for by re-weighting them using occupational data from baptismal registers, which are available for some parishes in London. The early eighteenth century data derives from the marriage registers of the Fleet Prison. In this period about half of all London marriages were celebrated in the jurisdiction of the Fleet. Likewise, a comparison with occupational data for parishes whose baptism registers records occupations with men marrying in the Fleet from the same parishes provides the basis for re-calibrating the Fleet data. The Fleet data are then compared with a complete sample of all of London’s baptism registers taken from 1813 to 1820, when every parish recorded the occupation of the father, and with the 1851, 1881, and 1911 censuses. The paper thus presents the first ever estimates of London’s occupational structure before the mid-mid-nineteenth century. This allows us to identify the range and scale of economic activities for the first time. London remained the largest manufacturing centre in Britain throughout, but the whole period was characterised by a very substantial relative shift away from manufacturing to the service sector. (Show less)