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Market potential in British regions, 1871-1931

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This paper constructs measures of market potential for British regions based on the spatial distribution of GDP and its accessibility. The results show that the North, Scotland and Wales were much less 'peripheral' before World War I than in 1985. The main reason for the deterioration in their position was changing transport costs. The marginalization of coastal shipping and the rise of road haulage had markedly accentuated the 'peripherality' of outer Britain by 1931. The sensitivity of market potential to changes in relative transport costs has gone unnoticed but it underlines the danger of conflating 'peripherality' with competitiveness.

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