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Monks, Gents and Industrialists: The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries

Leander Heldring, James A. Robinson, Sebastian Vollmer

NBER Working Paper No. 21450
Issued in August 2015, Revised in October 2017
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

We examine the long-run economic impact of the Dissolution of the English monasteries in 1535, which is plausibly linked to the commercialization of agriculture and the location of the Industrial Revolution. Using monastic income at the parish level as our explanatory variable, we show that parishes which the Dissolution impacted more had more textile mills and employed a greater share of population outside agriculture, had more gentry and agricultural patent holders, and were more likely to be enclosed. Our results extend Tawney's famous ‘rise of the gentry’ thesis by linking social change to the Industrial Revolution.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21450

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