Henry Phelps Brown (1906–1994)

  • Peter A. RiachEmail author


Henry Phelps Brown was Professor of Labour Economics at LSE from 1947 to 1968. This was a time when trade unions in Britain were powerful, exchange rates were fixed, and governments intervened in setting wage and price targets; it was also a time when economists, particularly at the School, embraced economic history. Phelps Brown’s contributions must be assessed in this context. He recognised that labour economists needed to understand the institutional characteristics of the labour market, so he investigated the development of British trade unions and their role in the system of industrial relations. He also constructed various historical series, including money wages and labour productivity. Finally, Phelps Brown provided a precursor of the Phillips curve and a devastating critique of the Cobb-Douglas production function.


Wages Trade unions Productivity Inequality Cobb-Douglas Wage share Phillips curve 


Main Works by Henry Phelps Brown

  1. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1957a). ‘The Long-Term Movement of Real Wages’. Chapter 4 in J.T. Dunlop (ed.) The Theory of Wage Determination. London: Macmillan: 48–65.Google Scholar
  2. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1957b). ‘The Meaning of the Fitted Cobb-Douglas Function’. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 71(4): 546–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1959). The Growth of British Industrial Relations: A Study from the Standpoint of 190614. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  4. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1962). The Economics of Labor. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1964). Report of the Committee of Inquiry to Review the Pay and Conditions of Employment of the Drivers and Conductors of the London Transport Board’s Road Services. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  6. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1968). Pay and Profits: The Theory of Distribution Reviewed in the Light of the Behaviour of Some Western Economies Over the Last Hundred Years. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1972). ‘The Underdevelopment of Economics’. Economic Journal, 82(325): 1–10.Google Scholar
  8. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1977). The Inequality of Pay. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1980). ‘The Radical Reflections of an Applied Economist’. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, 33(132): 3–14.Google Scholar
  10. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1983). The Origins of Trade Union Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Phelps Brown, E.H. (1988). Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.J. Handfield-Jones (1952). ‘The Climacteric of the 1890s: A Study in the Expanding Economy’. Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, 4(3): 266–307.Google Scholar
  13. Phelps Brown, E.H. and P.E. Hart (1952). ‘The Share of Wages in National Income’. Economic Journal, 62(246): 253–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.V. Hopkins (1950). ‘The Course of Wage-Rates in Five Countries, 1860–1939’. Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, 2(2): 226–296.Google Scholar
  15. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.V. Hopkins (1955). ‘Seven Centuries of Building Wages’. Economica, New Series, 22(87): 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.V. Hopkins (1956). ‘Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables compared with Builders’ Wage-Rates’. Economica, New Series, 23(92): 296–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.V. Hopkins (1957). ‘Wage-Rates and Prices: Evidence for Population Pressure in the Sixteenth Century’. Economica, New Series, 24(96): 289–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Phelps Brown, E.H. and S.V. Hopkins (1961). ‘Seven Centuries of Wages and Prices: Some Earlier Estimates’. Economica, New Series, 28(109): 30–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Phelps Brown, E.H. and B. Weber (1953). ‘Accumulation, Productivity and Distribution in the British Economy, 1870–1938’. Economic Journal, 63(250): 263–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Other Works Referred To

  1. Balogh, T. (1982). The Irrelevance of Conventional Economics. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.Google Scholar
  2. Bridbury, A.R. (1962). Economic Growth: England in the Later Middle Ages. London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  3. Bronfenbrenner, M. (1979). ‘Review of The Inequality of Pay, by E.H. Phelps Brown’. Journal of Economic History, 39(2): 608–609.Google Scholar
  4. Cairncross, A. (1996). ‘Henry Phelps Brown’. Review of Political Economy, 8(2): 141–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cameron, C.R. (1975). ‘Can there be Greater Equality of Wages?’. Speech to Industrial Relations Society of South Australia’s Annual Vintage Convention, 9 March. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.Google Scholar
  6. Cipolla, C.M. (1976). Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 10001700. Second edition, 1981. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  7. Corden, W.M. (1977). ‘Macro-Economic Policy Options for Australia’. Economic Papers, E1(56): 25–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davidson, P. (1990). Collected Economic Papers. Volume 1. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Falkus, M. (1996). ‘Henry Phelps Brown as Economic Historian’. Review of Political Economy, 8(2): 157–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feinstein, C. (1990). ‘What Really Happened to Real Wages? Trends in Wages, Prices and Productivity in the United Kingdom, 1880–1913’. Economic History Review, New Series, 43(3): 329–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Glyn, A. (1978). ‘Review of The Inequality of Pay, by E.H. Phelps Brown’. Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies, 46(2): 180.Google Scholar
  12. Hammarström, I. (1957). ‘The “Price Revolution” of the Sixteenth Century: Some Swedish Evidence’. Scandinavian Economic History Review, 5(2): 118–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kaldor, N. (1955–1956). ‘Alternative Theories of Distribution’. Review of Economic Studies, 23(2): 83–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  17. Lebergott, S. (1990). ‘Review of Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality, by E.H. Phelps Brown’. Journal of Economic History, 50(1): 254–255.Google Scholar
  18. Meredith, H.O. (1908). Outlines of the Economic History of England. London: Pitman and Son.Google Scholar
  19. Phillips, A.W. (1958). ‘The Relation between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wage Rates in the United Kingdom, 1861–1957’. Economica, New Series, 25(100): 283–299.Google Scholar
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  21. Riach, P.A. and Richards, G.M. (1979). ‘The Lesson of the Cameron Experiment’. Australian Economic Papers, 18(32): 21–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  23. Rostow, W.W. (1975). ‘Kondratieff, Schumpeter and Kuznets: Trend Periods Revisited’. Journal of Economic History, 35(4): 719–753.Google Scholar
  24. Rothschild, K.W. (1961). ‘Some Recent Contributions to a Macro-Economic Theory of Income Distribution’. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 8(3): 173–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rottenberg, S. (1961). ‘Review of The Growth of British Industrial Relations: A Study from the Standpoint of 190614, by E.H. Phelps Brown’. Journal of Political Economy, 69(3): 307–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schumpeter, J.A. (1939). Business Cycles. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  27. Scitovsky, T. (1964). ‘A Survey of Some Theories of Income Distribution’. Chapter 1 in NBER The Behaviour of Income Shares: Selected Theoretical and Empirical Issues. Princeton: Princeton University Press: 15–51.Google Scholar
  28. Simon, H.A. (1979). ‘Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations’. American Economic Review, 69(4): 493–513.Google Scholar
  29. Trade Disputes Act (1906). London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  30. Worswick, D. (1996). ‘Henry Phelps Brown’. Review of Political Economy, 8(2): 153–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)BonnGermany

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