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Shipping in Dire Straits: New Evidence on Trends and Cycles in Coal Freights from Britain, 1919-1939

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Abstract: New monthly freight rate indices for 13 coal trade routes from Britain 1919-1939 are presented. The new indices form the basis of a review of the interwar freight markets and their relationship to the timing and severity of general business cycles. New time series of laid-up tonnage provide the background for this discussion. The Great Depression starting in the autumn of 1929 created a shipping cycle of unusual length and severity. Real freight rate indices used as a cross-check on productivity gains in shipping raise some doubt on previous estimates of productivity growth in British shipping in the interwar years.

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