The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth: The English Corn Returns as a Data Source in Economic History, 1770-1914
50 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 2013
From 1770 to 1914, the British Government collected weekly price and quantity data for all types of grain traded in many market towns; these Corn Returns were published in the London Gazette. We computerised the data published 1770-1864, totalling around 6 million data points. Here we describe the nature of these data; discuss why, when and how they were collected; consider their accuracy and biases; describe how we computerised them; and offer caveats in using these and similar data. We highlight the problem of drawing valid inferences in the face of price impact from fluctuating grain quality and rising imports.
Keywords: data collection, markets
JEL Classification: C81, N53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation