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Steam as a general purpose technology: a growth accounting perspective

  • Nicholas Crafts

The contribution of steam to British economic growth in the nineteenth century is estimated using growth accounting methods similar to those recently employed to examine the role of ICT. The results indicate that steam contributed little to growth before 1830 and had its peak impact about a hundred years after Watt's famous invention. Only with the advent of high-pressure steam after 1850 did the technology realise its potential. Compared with ICT, steam's impact on the annual rate of growth was modest. It is unlikely that these conclusions are vulnerable to quantification of hitherto unmeasured TFP spillovers. Copyright 2004 Royal Economic Society.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22354/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22354.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: May 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22354
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/

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  1. John W. Kanefsky, 1979. "Motive Power in British Industry and the Accuracy of the 1870 Factory Return," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 32(3), pages 360-375, 08.
  2. Nathan Rosenberg & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the late 19th Century US," NBER Working Papers 8485, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Gerard Turnbull, 1987. "Canals, coal and regional growth during the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 40(4), pages 537-560, November.
  6. Crafts, N. F. R., 1995. "Exogenous or Endogenous Growth? The Industrial Revolution Reconsidered," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(04), pages 745-772, December.
  7. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late 19th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 3008, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The resurgence of growth in the late 1990s: is information technology the story?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  9. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  10. Atack, Jeremy, 1979. "Fact in fiction? The relative costs of steam and water power: a simulation approach," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 409-437, October.
  11. Harberger, Arnold C, 1998. "A Vision of the Growth Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 1-32, March.
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