DP9515 The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: the English Corn Returns as a data source in economic history, 1770-1914

Author(s): Liam Brunt, Edmund Cannon
Publication Date: June 2013
Keyword(s): data collection, markets
JEL(s): C81, N53
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=9515

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.