By P L Payne
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Extra resources for British Entrepreneurship in the Nineteenth Century
That really hard evidence of entrepreneurial failure was remarkably elusive. Indeed, Sigsworth, faced with this survey of British manufacturing industry, asked: can we still continue to generalise with such certainty about the characteristics of "the British entrepreneur" between 1870 and 1914? g. engineering, iron and steel, glass, wool textiles), there existed marked differences in performance between different sections and, within sections, between different firms. And if the diversity of experience appears even stronger than has hitherto been conceded, can we continue to accept generalised explanations about characteristics which, in so far as they amounted to 'shortcomings" or even "failure", were so variously distributed?
252: 129] And the relevance of these questions was enhanced by studies of the British boot and shoe , leather , and cycle industries . But the British approach of piling case upon case, despite the increasing sophistication of the analyses, was unsatisfactory to those American scholars who were convinced that the measures of performance employed by Landes, Aldcroft and his associates, Wilson, Church and Harrison, were inadequate on theoretical grounds: 'measures of output because they confound influences of demand with those of supply and the measures of indicative innovations because they neglect the variability in the advantage to be gained from different innovations in different countries' [246: 100-1].
Thus the British economy was characterised by relatively small firms whose ability to compete abroad - when, indeed, they made any attempt to do so- was inherently weak, 34 a weakness which was exacerbated by the widespread policy of product differentiation, the successful implementation of which demands continuous personal representation in the market. At home, or in limited regional areas, this could be done; overseas, it was impossibly expensive for the small firm, and of the 'giant companies' that came into existence at the close of the century, few could equal J.