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A critical reassessment of the evidence of long swings in residential construction in Great Britain, 1860-1940 : with special emphasis on the local experience in Lancashire and South Wales Olesen, Richard Mogens

Abstract

This thesis examines the evidence of long swings in British house-building from 1860 to 1914. The central issue of the present inquiry concerns the existence of cyclical fluctuations in residential construction and the nature of the causal mechanisms by which these phenomena might be explained. A general analysis of the structure of the housing market and the institutional peculiarities which give rise to the lagged adjustment process by which changes in demand are translated into changes in the supply of housing accommodation suggests that the appropriate level at which to analyze the behavior of house-building is the regional or local level. The importance of specifying relationships whose underlying behavioral implications are consistent with the level of aggregation, is stressed. With this in mind, a general regional model of housebuilding activity is developed and its theoretical solutions explored. This provides a conceptual analytical framework used subsequently to study the regional (and local) housebuilding experience of South Wales and South-east Lancashire. These disaggregated regional studies show local patterns of residential construction to exhibit a wide range of variation. Operative causal mechanisms found to exist at this level of analysis disclose significant regional differences which seriously question the validity of the macro-causal relationships which have been offered to explain fluctuations in British house-building. The limits of the present analysis and the tentative nature of our conclusions are emphasized. With this in mind, there are suggested a number of areas which require far more intensive study than they have received in the past. Only when we learn more about the inter-relationships in the pattern of regional development will we be able to more fully understand the mechanisms of the long swings.

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