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

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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, 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: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 8, pages 153-172 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Mokyr, Joel, 2001. "The rise and fall of the factory system: technology, firms, and households since the industrial revolution," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 1-45, December.
    3. Nathan Rosenberg & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2009. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 6, pages 97-135 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    4. Harley, C. Knick, 1988. "Ocean Freight Rates and Productivity, 1740–1913: The Primacy of Mechanical Invention Reaffirmed," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(04), pages 851-876, December.
    5. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
    6. Lipsey, Richard G. & Carlaw, Kenneth I. & Bekar, Clifford T., 2005. "Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199290895.
    7. Temin, Peter, 1997. "Two Views of the British Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(01), pages 63-82, March.
    8. Epstein, S. R., 1998. "Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 684-713, September.
    9. Robin Pearson & David Richardson, 2001. "Business Networking in the Industrial Revolution[Earlier ve]," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 54(4), pages 657-679, November.
    10. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "The Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 285-351, June.
    11. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    12. Smil, Vaclav, 2005. "Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195168747.
    13. Roger Fouquet & Peter J.G. Pearson, 2006. "Seven Centuries of Energy Services: The Price and Use of Light in the United Kingdom (1300-2000)," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 139-178.
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    Cited by:

    1. Raslavičius, Laurencas & Keršys, Artūras & Mockus, Saulius & Keršienė, Neringa & Starevičius, Martynas, 2014. "Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a medium-term option in the transition to sustainable fuels and transport," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 513-525.
    2. Peretto, Pietro F., 2015. "From Smith to Schumpeter: A theory of take-off and convergence to sustained growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-26.
    3. Soete, Luc & Verspagen, Bart & ter Weel, Bas, 2010. "Systems of Innovation," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    4. Goel, Rajeev K. & Saunoris, James W., 2016. "Institutional path dependence and international research intensity," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 52(PB), pages 851-858.
    5. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:21-36 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Santos LÓPEZ-LEYVA & Miriam Liliana CASTILLO-ARCE & José David LEDEZMA-TORRES & Jesús Armando RÍOS-FLORES, 2014. "Economic Growth from a Theoretical Perspective of Knowledge Economy: An Empirical Analysis for Mexico," Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy Journal, College of Management, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, vol. 2(5), pages 217-239, August.
    7. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:8:p:1437-1453 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic growth; industrial enlightenment; industrial revolution; innovation;

    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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