The Atlas gives rates by RSD location compared with the economically active. It is possible to see how the rate stayed fairly similar across the period until 1901, but varied strongly across the country. Rural areas tended to have very high rates of entrepreneurship because most individuals ran their own businesses and there was little economic opportunity for workers. Urban areas had high entrepreneurship rates, but not as dominant as might be expected because they had high concentrations of large firms employing very large numbers of workers. In a rural village or small town with few opportunities for waged work many people were proprietors as farmers, small manufacturers such as shoe makers, and retailers like bakers, butchers or innkeepers; in large towns the proprietors were heavily outnumbered by the huge workforces of large firms.
Entrepreneurship rates stayed high in the 19th century until 1901, after which they started to decline rapidly. The BBCE, when joined up to modern data, as shown in the following graphs, demonstrates that the 19th century saw the highest rates of entrepreneurship ever recorded in Britain (compared to the economically active). Note the lack for full data for 1871 and no census taken in 1941. A 'U-shaped' decline in entrepreneurship and small firms that occurred in the 20th century set in after 1901, reached a minimum in the 1960s, before recovering today.
[Source: BBCE and census reports: The Age of Entrepreneurship Fig 4.9]
Entrepreneurship rates were higher than modern rates for both employers and for individuals on own account. For men it was highest in farming, maker-dealing, manufactures, construction and food sales; professionals also grew rapidly. The Victorian period was particularly an age of entrepreneurship for women as own account proprietors, many working from home running an inn or lodging house, as dressmakers, tailors, shirtmakers, and laundresses, and others as shopkeepers or school proprietors. Many women were employers in small manufactures, retail and on farms, and some were proprietors of large factories. But only since the 1960s has women's participation as employers (full time) equalled or exceeded those on own account.