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‘Glorious Times’: The Emergence of Mechanical Engineering in Early Industrial Britain, c. 1700-1850


  • Christine MacLeod
  • Alessandro Nuvolari


The primary aim of this paper is to explore the significance of the emergence and growth of mechanical engineering as a distinct industrial activity in early industrial Britain. The paper provides a survey of the most important interpretations put forward concerning the role of mechanical engineering in the early phases of industrialization. These interpretations are then confronted with data on the growth of the sector and with an analysis of the patterns of innovation carried out by means of a study of patent data. Our results broadly confirm the role of the sector as the main engine of technical progress in this historical phase.

Suggested Citation

  • Christine MacLeod & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2009. "‘Glorious Times’: The Emergence of Mechanical Engineering in Early Industrial Britain, c. 1700-1850," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 52(3/4), pages 215-237.
  • Handle: RePEc:bxr:bxrceb:2013/80759 Note: Numéro Spécial « Vers une nouvelle histoire économique des brevets ?» Editeurs :Claude Diebolt et Karine Pellier

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Morgan Kelly & Joel Mokyr & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2014. "Precocious Albion: A New Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 363-389, August.
    2. James Bessen & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2017. "Diffusing New Technology without Dissipating Rents: Some Historical Case Studies of Knwoledge Sharing," LEM Papers Series 2017/28, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

    More about this item


    Mechanical engineering; Machine making; Innovation; Patents; Industrial revolution;

    JEL classification:

    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives


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