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The “sailing ship effect”: Reassessing history as a source of insight on technical change

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  • Mendonça, Sandro

Abstract

The so-called “sailing ship effect” has often been stated as though there is no doubt that it really took place in the end of the 19th century. The notion has, moreover, been used as a stylised fact that is in charge of conveying the idea that the substitution threat of new radical technologies may lead to a renewed spurt of innovation in an old and established technology. On the basis of quantitative evidence and a systematic review of the field of maritime history this paper shows that the effect is nowhere to be found in the very case it derives its name from. The modernisation of the sailing trader occurs before, not after, the steamship had become an effective competitor. It is argued that if history is to be used to give credence to explanations of empirical regularities in a variety of settings the original source of the relevant concepts must be carefully revisited and deeply researched.

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  • Mendonça, Sandro, 2013. "The “sailing ship effect”: Reassessing history as a source of insight on technical change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(10), pages 1724-1738.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:42:y:2013:i:10:p:1724-1738
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2012.12.009
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Frédéric Thiesse & Marco Wirth & Hans-Georg Kemper & Michelle Moisa & Dominik Morar & Heiner Lasi & Frank Piller & Peter Buxmann & Letizia Mortara & Simon Ford & Tim Minshall, 2015. "Economic Implications of Additive Manufacturing and the Contribution of MIS," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 57(2), pages 139-148, April.

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