December 10, 2002
How Rich Was Mr. Darcy?

How rich was Mr. Darcy? In 1810 the pound had a present-day value of £27.28 or roughly $45 so his £10,000 P.A. would have been worth $450,000...

[Source? I should check this...]

Posted by DeLong at December 10, 2002 10:16 PM | Trackback

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It's hard to assign a real value to ancient currency, because what 45 dollars would buy today would buy more or less than a pound back then, depending on the item.

For example, wages in 1810 were relatively low. A maid would get 11 pounds or so per quarter (plus a pound of tea, and room and board). That's about 4 pounds a month-- $180. I'd love to find a live-in maid who would work for that (and speak English and be legal). A seacaptain or army major made about 300 pounds a year-- $13500. Well, of course military officers make multiples of that now. But they must have been able to live on that back then, probably because labor costs were so low and the necessities of life correspondingly cheap.

But the Darcy figure is probably pretty accurate, because the rich were really rich back then. (Darcy isn't even upper-level aristocrat-- I think he's the nephew of an earl, but untitled himself.) Luxury items were correspondingly expensive. Silk stockings were 10 shillings or more, and a ballgown could cost upwards of 100 pounds.

What's fascinating is how little inflation there seems to have been in the century or more after Darcy-- and how much in the last 40 years. The Beatles Anthology has some intriguing details about life in postwar Liverpool, like one of the Beatles in the late 50s working as a laborer for 10-15 pounds a week.

Anyway, equivalence is hard to measure precisely, but it's good to know that Darcy would be a good catch even today!

Posted by: Ali on December 10, 2002 10:43 PM

"What's fascinating is how little inflation there seems to have been in the century or more after Darcy-- and how much in the last 40 years."

That's true in the U.S. also. From 1800 to 1940, essentially no inflation.

And the world went off the gold standard about the same time. What a puzzle!

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 11, 2002 09:59 AM

One of the big problems of comparison is one that still applies today, in comparing with today's developing countries. For many people in those, money income does not feature as a large part of their daily subsistence, and a higher proportion of it is discretionary. This makes figures like Dollar and Kraay's "proving" the poor are getting better off suspect; to work that out we really need to know net real incomes after subsistence, but as well as improving cash flows the development process is actually increasing the level of dependence on cash by reducing subsistence resources. We do not know which of these effects is gaining at any stage of increasing development.

Getting back to 19th century Britain, many of Darcy's costs would have been lower as he would have been buying services in exchange for what was effectively pocket money, the analogues of costs of newspaper deliveries. Most servants would have been receiving cash for their extended families by working outside the home when young, and also receiving subsistence so it was all free and clear. Food for these would have been diverted from the home farm without even reaching the market, and so on. The money was an extra; the gain to the extended family included reducing the number of direct dependents and improving their prospects. Demographics and family connections affected domestic service a lot.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on December 11, 2002 02:35 PM

The rule of 70 is great, and the derivation is easy. 70/time to double is the rate of increase (percentage). This is a very, very useful approximation.

The great thing about math is tricks and approximations. Like using Ce^iwt for a wave, and getting the amplitude and phase variation--and getting it algebraically. That makes circuit design much easier. Coupled differential equations can be solved as coupled algebraic equations. That is cool.

I am a firm beleiver that learning math requires having hobbies which require it. Try simple circuit design--audio circuits are fairly simple in that regard, and useful. Or volume estimations of complex surfaces.

Of course, I also think it is better to get good physical intuition about math--learn the physics, and then teach the math. Throw a frisbee--what is the equation of motion--what about launching a rocket (nice differential equation). Those things are useful, adn then once you have a sense of it, the math is great.

Posted by: Brennan on December 11, 2002 03:44 PM

I'm just curious about who is the Mr. Darcy you are talking about. My ancestor's were Darcy's in England, some of whom were Knights, Lords and Barons. Looking for information about my ancestors.

Hope you'll pardon the intrusion.

Posted by: Rand Dorsey on May 21, 2003 03:53 PM

I'm just curious about who is Mr. Darcy.

My Darcy ancestor's were Knights, Lords and Barons. Looking for info about my ancestors.

Please pardon the intrusion.

Posted by: Rand Dorsey on May 21, 2003 03:55 PM
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