Business in the Regions: From ‘Old’ Districts to ‘New’ Clusters?

Andrew Popp and John Wilson

in Business in Britain in the Twentieth Century

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199226009
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191710315 | DOI:
Business in the Regions: From ‘Old’ Districts to ‘New’ Clusters?

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This chapter adopts a long run perspective to survey the place of the regions in the British economy over the last 250 years; from the ‘old’ industrial districts of the first industrial revolution to the ‘new’ industrial clusters of the third industrial revolution. The chapter asks how a regionally oriented perspective can add to or alter dominant narratives in English economic and business history. Through a structured, dynamic analysis of these two apparently distinct eras during which the local came to the fore, it argues that spatial factors are not incidental to long-run processes in English economic history; that powerful spatial factors have not simply been path-dependent but also path-forming; and that these factors can play a significant role in explaining long-run processes of restructuring, at organizational and strategic as well as at spatial levels, and thus bear an important relation to questions of national economic performance. Consideration of these issues requires an appreciation of the strategic and organizational characteristics and competitive advantages associated with clustering and of their dynamic properties. Two concepts are key to the latter issue; life-cycle and lock-in. Throughout, these concepts are fused with the historians' appreciation of narrative, agency and contingency. The chapter concludes that despite considerable continuities, the ‘new’ clusters of the 21st century display a fragility that marks them out from the ‘old’ clusters of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Keywords: industrial districts; clustering; regions; agency; life-cycles; lock-in

Chapter.  8066 words. 

Subjects: Business History

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