The thesis seeks to contribute to the study of the urban economies of the small, slow growing towns of the late Georgian and early Victorian period. This is undertaken at two levels. First, consideration is given to sources. A number of mainly quantitative sources became available from the later 18th century. Four principal ones are identified. Each of the main chapters deals with one of these; evaluating the information contained and considering methods by which this can be used to assess the character and prosperity of the small town urban economy.\ud At the second level the thesis applies these methodologies to a case study of three north Essex cloth towns. Despite experiencing the transition to factory-based production, these towns did not witness the associated urban expansion. A two-part hypothesis is advanced to explain this phenomenon. The first suggests that differences in economic orientation existed between the case study towns and their rapidly growing counterparts in the north; the second, that the dominance of these non-industrial activities restrained the extent to which industry in the Essex towns grew.\ud Results gained from application of the sources to the case study are shown to support the hypothesis. First, in contrast to towns such as Halifax and Macclesfield, marketing and thoroughfare functions formed the staple economic activities of the Essex towns. Second, the Essex silk manufacturers pursued a low wage policy requiring expansion of production through the establishment of additional mills in other settlements. This policy is shown to have been a rational response to local labour markets created by the operation of the towns as agricultural marketing and thoroughfare centres. In concluding similar observations are made for other towns in southern England
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