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Steam as a general purpose technology: A growth accounting perspective

  • Nicholas Crafts

The contribution of steam to British economic growth in the nineteenth century is estimated using growth accounting methods similar to those recently employed to examine the role of ICT. The results indicate that steam contributed little to growth before 1830 and had its peak impact about a hundred years after Watt's famous invention. Only with the advent of high-pressure steam after 1850 did the technology realise its potential. Compared with ICT, steam's impact on the annual rate of growth was modest. It is unlikely that these conclusions are vulnerable to quantification of hitherto unmeasured TFP spillovers. Copyright 2004 Royal Economic Society.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 114 (2004)
Issue (Month): 495 (04)
Pages: 338-351

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:114:y:2004:i:495:p:338-351
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  1. Nathan Rosenberg & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the late 19th Century US," NBER Working Papers 8485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The resurgence of growth in the late 1990s: is information technology the story?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late 19th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 3008, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  5. A.E. Musson, 1976. "Industrial Motive Power in the United Kingdom, 1800–70," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 29(3), pages 415-439, 08.
  6. John W. Kanefsky, 1979. "Motive Power in British Industry and the Accuracy of the 1870 Factory Return," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 32(3), pages 360-375, 08.
  7. Crafts, N. F. R., 1995. "Exogenous or Endogenous Growth? The Industrial Revolution Reconsidered," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(04), pages 745-772, December.
  8. Gerard Turnbull, 1987. "Canals, coal and regional growth during the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 40(4), pages 537-560, November.
  9. Harberger, Arnold C, 1998. "A Vision of the Growth Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 1-32, March.
  10. Atack, Jeremy, 1979. "Fact in fiction? The relative costs of steam and water power: a simulation approach," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 409-437, October.
  11. A. E. Musson, 1963. "British Industrial Growth during the‘Great Depression’1873-96: Some Comments," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 15(3), pages 529-533, 04.
  12. Crafts, N F R & Leybourne, S J & Mills, Terence C, 1989. "The Climacteric in Late Victorian Britain and France: A Reappraisal of the Evidence," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(2), pages 103-17, April-Jun.
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