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Negotiating the Rewards of Invention: The Shop-Floor Inventor in Victorian Britain

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  • Christine Macleod
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    We know very little about the production and management of innovation within the nineteenth-century firm. It was a common assumption in Victorian Britain that the principal site of inventive activity was the industrial shop floor, but there was little discussion of how firms might best encourage it or benefit by it. This article uses case studies drawn from a range of company archives to explore the relationship between inventive workers and their employers. Although examples can be found of workers who rose through their inventions to partnerships and even considerable wealth, and of firms which successfully managed their employees' intellectual property, the paper concludes that these were probably exceptional cases. Most firms found it an inherently very difficult relationship to handle and, because of their preconceptions, probably overlooked much of the inventive talent available on their own shop floor.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Business History.

    Volume (Year): 41 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 17-36

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:bushst:v:41:y:1999:i:2:p:17-36
    DOI: 10.1080/00076799900000256
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