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The origins of Japanese technological modernization

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  • Nicholas, Tom

Abstract

Explanations of Japanese technological modernization from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century have increasingly focused on domestic capabilities as opposed to the traditional emphasis on knowledge transfers from the West. Yet, the literature is mostly qualitative and it lacks a comparative context. This article presents quantitative metrics derived from patent data covering Japan, the United States, Britain and Germany and it also exploits non-patent based sources. The evidence shows that Japanese domestic inventive activity exhibited a pattern of rapid modernization to the technology frontier in terms of its level, sectoral distribution and quality. Domestic capabilities were much stronger than is often supposed in accounts that stress the prevalence of Western technology diffusion. A long run expansion in indigenous development set a favorable foundation for the economic growth miracle Japan experienced after the Second World War.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicholas, Tom, 2011. "The origins of Japanese technological modernization," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 272-291, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:48:y:2011:i:2:p:272-291
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nuvolari, Alessandro & Vasta, Michelangelo, 2015. "The Ghost in the Attic? The Italian National Innovation System in Historical Perspective, 1861–2011," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(02), pages 270-290, June.
    2. repec:kap:jecgro:v:23:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10887-018-9154-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ömer Özak, 2018. "Distance to the pre-industrial technological frontier and economic development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 175-221, June.
    4. Makiko Hino & Mototsugu Fukushige, 2014. "Catching up and falling behind in technological progress: the experience of the textile and chemical industries in Italy between 1904 and 1937," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 14-14, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).

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