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The early diffusion of the steam engine in Britain, 1700–1800: a reappraisal

Author

Listed:
  • Alessandro Nuvolari

    () (Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Piazza Martiri della Libertà 33, 56127 Pisa, Italy)

  • Bart Verspagen

    () (Faculty of Economics, UNU-Merit, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands)

  • Nick von Tunzelmann

    () (SPRU, Freeman Centre, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QE UK)

Abstract

We examine the diffusion of steam technology across British counties during the eighteenth century. First, we provide new estimates for the regional variations in the timing, pace and extent of usage of steam engines. Our main data source is an updated version of the list of steam engines erected in Britain during the eighteenth century originally compiled by Kanefsky and Robey (Technol Cult 21:161–186, 1980). Following a rather established approach for analysing the diffusion of new technologies we fit S-shaped growth functions to the data on the numbers of steam engines installed in each county. In this way, we are able to provide a comprehensive appraisal of the relative speed of the diffusion process in different counties. Second, in order to assess the relative importance of the variables shaping the diffusion of steam power technology, we study the relationship between the number of steam engines installed in each county and localization factors such as coal prices, availability of water sites, number of textile mills and number of blast furnaces.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Nuvolari & Bart Verspagen & Nick von Tunzelmann, 2011. "The early diffusion of the steam engine in Britain, 1700–1800: a reappraisal," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 5(3), pages 291-321, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:5:y:2011:i:3:p:291-321
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11698-011-0063-6
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    Cited by:

    1. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2016. "Did Science Cause the Industrial Revolution?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 224-239, March.
    2. Mauro Rota & Luca Spinesi, 2013. "At the Onset of the original capital accumulation," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0179, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    3. Stuetzer, Michael & Obschonka, Martin & Audretsch, David B. & Wyrwich, Michael & Rentfrow, Peter J. & Coombes, Mike & Shaw-Taylor, Leigh & Satchell, Max, 2016. "Industry structure, entrepreneurship, and culture: An empirical analysis using historical coalfields," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 52-72.
    4. Morgan Kelly & Joel Mokyr & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2015. "Roots of the Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 201524, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    5. Giovanni Dosi & Alessio Moneta & Elena Stepanova, 2017. "Dynamic Increasing Returns and Innovation Diffusion: bringing Polya Urn processes to the empirical data," LEM Papers Series 2017/15, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    6. Claude Diebolt & Charlotte Le Chapelain & Audrey-Rose Menard, 2017. "Industrialization as a Deskilling Process? Steam Engines and Human Capital in XIXth Century France," Working Papers 07-17, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    7. repec:eee:tefoso:v:128:y:2018:i:c:p:287-295 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Pulkki-Brännström, Anni-Maria & Stoneman, Paul, 2013. "On the patterns and determinants of the global diffusion of new technologies," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(10), pages 1768-1779.
    9. Koutroumpis, Pantelis & Leiponen, Aija & Thomas, Llewellyn D W, 2017. "Invention Machines: How Control Instruments and Information Technologies Drove Global Technologigal Progress over a Century of Invention," ETLA Working Papers 52, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    10. Kelly, Morgan & Mokyr, Joel & Grada, Cormac O, 2015. "Roots of the Industrial Revolution," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 248, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Steam engine; Diffusion; Great Britain; Industrial revolution;

    JEL classification:

    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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