The Rate and Direction of Invention in the British Industrial Revolution: Incentives and Institutions
AbstractDuring the Industrial Revolution technological progress and innovation became the main drivers of economic growth. But why was Britain the technological leader? We argue that one hitherto little recognized British advantage was the supply of highly skilled, mechanically able craftsmen who were able to adapt, implement, improve, and tweak new technologies and who provided the micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative. Using a sample of 759 of these mechanics and engineers, we study the incentives and institutions that facilitated the high rate of inventive activity during the Industrial Revolution. First, apprenticeship was the dominant form of skill formation. Formal education played only a minor role. Second, many skilled workmen relied on secrecy and first-mover advantages to reap the benefits of their innovations. Over 40 percent of the sample here never took out a patent. Third, skilled workmen in Britain often published their work and engaged in debates over contemporary technological and social questions. In short, they were affected by the Enlightenment culture. Finally, patterns differ for the textile sector; therefore, any inferences from textiles about the whole economy are likely to be misleading.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16993.
Date of creation: Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Ralf R. Meisenzahl, Joel Mokyr. "The Rate and Direction of Invention in the British Industrial Revolution: Incentives and Institutions," in Josh Lerner and Scott Stern, editors, "The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited" University of Chicago Press (2012)
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
- N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
- O31 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
- O34 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
- O43 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2011-05-07 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2011-05-07 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-HME-2011-05-07 (Heterodox Microeconomics)
- NEP-INO-2011-05-07 (Innovation)
- NEP-LAB-2011-05-07 (Labour Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Becker, Sascha O. & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009.
"Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution,"
IZA Discussion Papers
4556, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Sascha O. Becker & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution," CESifo Working Paper Series 2816, CESifo Group Munich.
- Becker, Sascha & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revoluti on," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2009-19, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
- Jasjit Singh & Ajay K. Agrawal, 2010.
"Recruiting for Ideas: How Firms Exploit the Prior Inventions of New Hires,"
NBER Working Papers
15869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Jasjit Singh & Ajay Agrawal, 2011. "Recruiting for Ideas: How Firms Exploit the Prior Inventions of New Hires," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(1), pages 129-150, January.
- Allen,Robert C., 2009.
"The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective,"
Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, December.
- Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521687850, December.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.