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The Transformation of ScotlandThe Economy since 1700$
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Tom M. Devine and Tom M. Devine

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748614325

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748614325.001.0001

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Economic Progress: Wealth and Poverty

Economic Progress: Wealth and Poverty

Chapter:
(p.128) Chapter Five Economic Progress: Wealth and Poverty
Source:
The Transformation of Scotland
Author(s):

C. H. Lee

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748614325.003.0005

This chapter raises the question of what progress is. It asks why the growth of prosperity over time has been so unequally shared between different groups or classes in Scottish society. It argues that the distribution of the benefits of progress is of crucial importance to the generation of sustained economic growth. There is ample evidence that much wealth in eighteenth-century Scotland was concentrated in the hands of a few landowners, as was normal in pre-industrial societies. Industrialisation enabled some fortunes to be made, but the rich, and even the moderately prosperous, were a small minority in society. Most Scots experienced low wages and irregular employment even after the new wealth had made Glasgow the second city of the Empire. The chapter argues that the fundamental weakness in the Scottish economy was its inability to sustain all of its growing population in work, leading to a low-wage economy and considerable emigration.

Keywords:   Scottish economy, economic development, prosperity, economic growth, economic inequality, low-wage economy

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