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The Contribution of Economic History to the Study of Innovation and Technical Change

In: Handbook of the Economics of Innovation

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  • Mokyr, Joel

Abstract

This chapter surveys the history of modern economic growth and suggests a number of mechanisms that drove the unprecedented technological thrust that account for the discontinuities of economic modernity. The Industrial Revolution and the subsequent developments did not just raise the level of technological capabilities; they changed the entire dynamics of how innovation comes about and the speeds of both invention and diffusion. For much of human history, innovation had been primarily a byproduct of normal economic activity, punctuated by periodical flashing insight that produced a macroinvention, such as water mills or the printing press. The mechanisms that account for innovation becoming a routine activity in terms of the production of useful knowledge are reviewed and linked to the “Baconian program” advocated by the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

Suggested Citation

  • Mokyr, Joel, 2010. "The Contribution of Economic History to the Study of Innovation and Technical Change," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 11-50, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:haechp:v1_11
    DOI: 10.1016/S0169-7218(10)01002-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Rosenberg, 2009. "Uncertainty and Technological Change," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 8, pages 153-172, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic growth; industrial enlightenment; industrial revolution; innovation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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