Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Technology, organisation and productivity performance in services : lessons from Britain and the United States since 1870

By Stephen Broadberry and Sayantan Ghosal


This paper documents the comparative productivity performance of the United States and Britain since 1870, showing the importance of developments in services. We identify the transition in market services from customised, low-volume, high-margin business organised on a network basis to standardised, high-volume, low-margin business with hierarchical management, as a key factor. A model of the interaction between technology, organisation and economic performance is then provided, focusing on the transition from networks to hierarchies. Four general lessons are drawn: (1) developments in services must be analysed if the major changes in comparative productivity performance among nations are to be understood fully; (2) different technologies and organisational forms can co-exist efficiently; (3) technological change can cause difficulties of adjustment in technology-using sectors if it is not suited to the social capabilities of the society; (4) reversal of technological trends can lead to reversal of comparative productivity performance

Topics: HF, HB
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1998). America’s Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century”, doi
  2. (1987). American Technology and the British Vehicle Industry, Cambridge: doi
  3. (2000). Banking and Finance in the Twentieth Century”, doi
  4. (1992). Britain’s Productivity Gap in the 1930s: Some Neglected Factors”, doi
  5. (1988). British Historical Statistics, (second edition) Cambridge:
  6. (1986). Catching Up, Forging Ahead and Falling Behind”, doi
  7. (1994). City Bankers, 1890-1914, Cambridge: doi
  8. (1996). Comparing Apples to Oranges: Productivity Convergence and Measurement Across Industries and Countries”, doi
  9. (1996). Competition and ‘Fair Trade’: History and Theory,
  10. (1989). Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management, doi
  11. (2001). Democracy, Decentralization, and Mass Schooling Before 1914: Appendices”, Working Paper No.105, Agricultural History
  12. (1998). Disillusionment or New Opportunities? The Changing Nature of Work in Offices, doi
  13. (1997). Forging Ahead, Falling Behind and Catching-Up: A Sectoral Analysis doi
  14. (2002). From the Counting House to the Modern Office: Explaining Anglo-American Productivity Differences in Services, 1870-1990”, doi
  15. (1998). How did the United States and Germany Overtake Britain? A Sectoral Analysis of Comparative Productivity Levels, 1870-1990”, doi
  16. (1990). If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise, doi
  17. (1995). Information, Mediation and Institutional Development: The Rise of Large-Scale Enterprise doi
  18. (1982). International Industrial Productivity: A Comparison of Britain, America and Germany, Cambridge: doi
  19. (1973). Japanese Economic Growth: Trend Acceleration in the Twentieth Century, doi
  20. (1974). Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation doi
  21. (1974). Managerial Innovation and the Rise of the Large-Scale doi
  22. (1998). Market services: Productivity Benchmarks for the UK”, doi
  23. (2000). Merchants to Multinationals: British Trading Companies doi
  24. (1995). Monitoring the World Economy, 1820-1992, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation
  25. (1972). National Income, Expenditure and Output of the United Kingdom, 1855-1965, Cambridge: doi
  26. (1990). New and Improved: The Story of Mass Marketing in America, doi
  27. (1980). Private Enterprise or Public Utility? Output, Pricing and Investment on English and Welsh Railways, 1870-1914”,
  28. (1966). Productivity and Technological Change in the Railroad Sector, 1840-1910”,
  29. (1980). Profiles of Union Growth: A Comparative Statistical Portrait of Eight Countries,
  30. (1971). Public Enterprise in Practice: The British Experience of Nationalization over Two Decades,
  31. (1976). The Bank of England, 1891-1944, (2 volumes + appendices), Cambridge: doi
  32. (1958). The Blackcoated Worker: A Study in Class Consciousness, London: Allen and Unwin. doi
  33. (2001). The British Economy in the Twentieth Century, doi
  34. (2001). The City of London, Volume IV: A Club No More, doi
  35. (1995). The Costs of Rejecting Universal Banking: American Finance in the German Mirror, 1870-1914”, doi
  36. (2001). The Human-Capital Century and American Leadership: Virtues of the Past”, doi
  37. (1997). The Productivity Race: British Manufacturing in International Perspective, 1850-1990, Cambridge: doi
  38. (1994). The Railway Clearing House and Victorian Data Processing”,
  39. (1996). The Relative Productivity of
  40. (1980). The United States: Seedbed of Managerial Capitalism”,
  41. (1977). The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, doi
  42. (1976). Victorian Clerks, doi
  43. (1999). Wall Street to Main Street: Charles Merrill and Middle-Class Investors, Cambridge: doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.