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Collective invention during the British Industrial Revolution: the case of the Cornish pumping engine

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  • Alessandro Nuvolari

Abstract

This paper argues that what Robert Allen has termed collective invention settings (that is, settings in which competing firms share technological knowledge) were a crucial source of innovation during the early phases of industrialisation. Until now this has been very little considered in the literature, which has focused on the patent system as the main institutional arrangement driving the rate of innovation. The paper presents one of these collective invention settings, the Cornish mining district, in detail. It studies the specific economic and technical circumstances that led to the emergence of this collective invention setting and analyses its consequences on the rate of technological innovation. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cje/beh011
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 28 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 347-363

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Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:28:y:2004:i:3:p:347-363

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  1. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-71, September.
  2. O’Brien, Patrick K. & Griffiths, Trevor & Hunt, Philip, 1995. "There Is Nothing Outside the Text, and There Is No Safety in Numbers: A Reply to Sullivan," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(03), pages 671-672, September.
  3. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
  4. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  5. Naomi R. Lamoreaux & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1997. "Location and Technological Change in the American Glass Industry During the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries," NBER Working Papers 5938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Merges, Robert P. & Nelson, Richard R., 1994. "On limiting or encouraging rivalry in technical progress: The effect of patent scope decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-24, September.
  7. Sullivan, Richard J., 1995. "Patent Counts and Textile Invention: A Comment on Griffiths, Hunt, and O’Brien," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(03), pages 666-670, September.
  8. Nelson, Richard R., 1990. "Capitalism as an engine of progress," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 193-214, June.
  9. Sullivan, Richard J., 1989. "England's Age of invention: The acceleration of patents and patentable invention during the industrial revolution," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 424-452, October.
  10. Freeman, Chris, 1994. "The Economics of Technical Change," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(5), pages 463-514, October.
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