IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Learning by Dying: Combat Performance in the Age of Sail


  • Benjamin, Daniel K.
  • Tifrea, Anca


Between 1660 and 1815 the combat fatality rate among British navy captains fell by 98 percent, even as the combat success of the British Navy rose dramatically. Both developments can be explained as a result of learning by doing among British commanders. This learning was importantly driven by the extensive wartime experience accumulated over this period, combined with the unparalleled financial incentives for combat success offered to British commanders.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin, Daniel K. & Tifrea, Anca, 2007. "Learning by Dying: Combat Performance in the Age of Sail," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 968-1000, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:67:y:2007:i:04:p:968-1000_00

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to article abstract page
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. O'Brien, Patrick & Duran, Xavier, 2010. "Total factor productivity for the Royal Navy from victory at Texal (1653) to triumph at Trafalgar (1805)," Economic History Working Papers 27886, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    2. Philip T. Hoffman, 2011. "Prices, the military revolution, and western Europe's comparative advantage in violence," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64, pages 39-59, February.
    3. Voth, Hans-Joachim & Xu, Guo, 2019. "Patronage for Productivity: Selection and Performance in the Age of Sail," CEPR Discussion Papers 13963, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:67:y:2007:i:04:p:968-1000_00. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Keith Waters). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.