Fifty Years since the Harvard Conference on the New Economic History of Britain

An Anniversary Conference


Swansea University

24-25 April 2020

Banner image: 'Swansea'Source: Renshaw & Kirkman, London, c. 1880 (reproduced with permission from the National Library of Wales)

'Fifty Years since the Harvard Conference on the New Economic History of Britain: An Anniversary Conference' has received generous financial support from both the Royal Economic Society and the Economic History Society.

Introduction

In September 1970, thirty-eight economic historians from Britain and the United States gathered at Harvard University for a landmark conference titled 'The New Economic History of Britain: 1840-1930'. This conference inaugurated, in earnest, the use of cliometrics in the study of British economic history. Over the past half century, the use of cliometrics in the study of British economic history has not only endured but also flourished.

'Fifty Years since the Harvard Conference on the New Economic History of Britain: An Anniversary Conference' will commemorate the half-century anniversary of the original conference at Harvard University. The venue for the anniversary conference will shift across the Atlantic to Swansea University in Wales. The conference will be held from 24-25 April 2020.

Like the original conference, the anniversary conference will consist of presentations of papers that use cliometric approaches (broadly defined) to advance our understanding of the economic history of modern Britain. The overall aim of this conference is to bring together early career researchers (including PhD students) and established scholars. It will serve as a valuable opportunity for senior economic historians to impart their knowledge upon the next generation of economic historians.

Several of the participants in the original conference in 1970 will be reprising their participation at the anniversary Conference. They include Derek Aldcroft, Roderick Floud, Knick Harley, Deirdre McCloskey, Wray Vamplew, and potentially others. At the conference, these individuals will engage in a panel discussion that considers both the legacy of the original conference and the future of cliometrics in the study of the economic history of modern Britain.

If you are interested in presenting a paper at 'Fifty Years since the Harvard Conference on the New Economic History of Britain: An Anniversary Conference', please visit the Call for Papers section of this website. If you wish to attend the conference but not present a paper, please email the conference organiser, since there may be some spaces available.

This conference is organised by Brian Varian (b.d.varian@swansea.ac.uk). Please feel free to contact him with any questions.

Call for Papers

Economic historians are invited to propose papers that use cliometric approaches (broadly defined) to advance our understanding of the economic history of modern Britain. To propose a paper, please email an approximately 300-word extended abstract to the conference organiser, Brian Varian (b.d.varian@swansea.ac.uk). The last date to propose a paper for the conference is 5 February 2020. Applicants will be notified of decisions no later than 10 February 2020.

Proposals are welcome from economic historians at all stages of their academic careers. PhD students and early career researchers are especially encouraged to propose papers. Due to the generosity of the Royal Economic Society and Economic History Society, small bursaries of £100 (to defray travel and accommodation costs) are available to PhD students and early career researchers who have been accepted to present at the conference and who lack other funding.

Conference Logistics

Dates

The conference will begin at 9:30am on Friday, 24 April. It will conclude at approximately 2:30pm on Saturday, 25 April.

Venue

The conference will be held at Swansea University's beach-front Bay Campus, which is home to the University's Economics Department. The newly constructed Bay Campus is located approximately 3 miles east of Swansea's city centre. Transportation between the Swansea Marriott Hotel and the Bay Campus will be arranged.

Costs

There is no registration fee for 'Fifty Years since the Harvard Conference on the New Economic History of Britain: An Anniversary Conference'. The Royal Economic Society and Economic History Society have generously funded lunches on both days of the conference and dinner on the evening of 24 April. Participants are responsible for the costs of travel and accommodation. Small bursaries of £100 are available to PhD students and early career researchers who have been accepted to present at the conference and who lack other funding.

Travel to Swansea

Air: The closest airport to Swansea is Cardiff Airport. At Cardiff Airport, take the 905 shuttle to the Rhoose (Cardiff International Airport) railway station. There is regular train service from Rhoose (Cardiff Airport) to Swansea. However, it is necessary to transfer between trains in Bridgend.

Train: As a terminus of the Great Western Railway, Swansea is easily reached by train. Trains leave from London Paddington Station almost every hour. The journey time is just under three hours.

Car: Swansea is located near the M4 Motorway. Traveling in the westbound direction on the M4, take exit 42 onto Fabian Way/A483. Travel west for 4 miles along the Fabian Way until arriving at Swansea city centre.

Accommodation

A discounted rate at the Swansea Marriott Hotel has been secured for conference participants. The discounted rates is available for the nights of 23, 24, and 25 April. The discounted rate is £99 per night (£109 per night for double occupancy). This rate includes breakfast. To take advantage of the discounted rate, you must book your accommodation before 31 March by following the link here.

A Brief History of Swansea

Swansea, more than any other city, has been identified with the copper industry. With an abundance of coal in South Wales and deposits of copper ore just across the Bristol Channel in Devon and Cornwall, Swansea was an ideal location for copper smelting. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Swansea region accounted for nine-tenths of the copper production of 'the workshop of the world'. Beginning in the 1890s, Swansea's copper industry began to decline as a consequence of rising production overseas, mainly the United States. The final smelting works in Swansea closed in 1980. Besides copper, other industries flourished in Swansea at various times. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the city was widely known for its 'Swansea porcelain'.

The Welsh name for Swansea is Abertawe, which is translated as 'mouth of the Tawe'. Swansea is located where the River Tawe enters the Bristol Channel. As a port city, trade and commerce have figured prominently in the history of Swansea. Construction of the Swansea dockyards began in the 1840s to accommodate the city's burgeoning copper industry. During the Second World War, the dockyards were targeted due to their strategic importance. In February 1941, three nights of bombing brought immense destruction to the city as a whole.

Perhaps the most notable resident of Swansea was the early twentieth-century poet and writer Dylan Thomas (1914-53), who referred to Swansea as 'an ugly, lovely town...crawling, sprawling...by the side of a long and splendid curving shore'.


Sources: Newell, E., '"Copperopolis": the rise and fall of the copper industry in the Swansea District, 1826-1921', Business History, 32 (1990), pp. 75-97; Roberts, R. O., 'The development and decline of the copper and other non-ferrous metal industries in South Wales', Transactions of the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion, (1956), pp. 78-115; Swansea Museum website, 'The Blitz', accessed on 10 January 2020.

Participants in the 1970 Harvard Conference

The following individuals participated in the original 'Conference on the New Economic History of Britain, 1840-1930' at Harvard University in September 1970:

  • D. H. Aldcroft
  • P. A. David
  • P. Deane
  • M. Edelstein
  • S. L. Engerman
  • M. E. Falkus
  • C. H. Feinstein
  • R. Floud
  • P. Friedman
  • A. Gerschenkron
  • C. K. Harley
  • H. J. Habakkuk
  • R. M. Hartwell
  • G. Hawke
  • J. R. T. Hughes
  • E. H. Hunt
  • A. H. Imlah
  • D. S. Landes
  • P. H. Lindert
  • C. Maier
  • P. Mathias
  • R. C. O. Matthews
  • D. N. McCloskey
  • P. D. McClelland
  • D. E. Moggridge
  • S. Pollard
  • J. B. Roth
  • L. Sandberg
  • S. B. Saul
  • B. Solow
  • B. E. Supple
  • P. Temin
  • B. Thomas
  • K. Trace
  • J. Tyce
  • W. Vamplew
  • N. von Tunzelmann
  • J. G. Williamson

Source: McCloskey, D. N., Essays on a mature economy: Britain after 1840 (London: Methuen, 1971).
Image: 'Swansea at Sunset'Source: Brian Varian