The Rate and Direction of Invention in the British Industrial Revolution: Incentives and Institutions
During the Industrial Revolution technological progress and innovation became the main drivers of economic growth. But why was Britain the technological leader? We argue that one hitherto little recognized British advantage was the supply of highly skilled, mechanically able craftsmen who were able to adapt, implement, improve, and tweak new technologies and who provided the micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative. Using a sample of 759 of these mechanics and engineers, we study the incentives and institutions that facilitated the high rate of inventive activity during the Industrial Revolution. First, apprenticeship was the dominant form of skill formation. Formal education played only a minor role. Second, many skilled workmen relied on secrecy and first-mover advantages to reap the benefits of their innovations. Over 40 percent of the sample here never took out a patent. Third, skilled workmen in Britain often published their work and engaged in debates over contemporary technological and social questions. In short, they were affected by the Enlightenment culture. Finally, patterns differ for the textile sector; therefore, any inferences from textiles about the whole economy are likely to be misleading.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2011|
|Publication status:||published as The Rate and Direction of Invention in the British Industrial Revolution: Incentives and Institutions , Ralf R. Meisenzahl, Joel Mokyr. in The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited , Lerner and Stern. 2012|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Sascha O. Becker & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2009.
"Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution,"
CESifo Working Paper Series
2816, CESifo Group Munich.
- Becker, Sascha & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revoluti on," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2009-19, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
- Becker, Sascha O. & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution," IZA Discussion Papers 4556, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Patrick Wallis, 2007.
"Apprenticeship and training in premodern England,"
Economic History Working Papers
22515, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
- Jasjit Singh & Ajay K. Agrawal, 2010.
"Recruiting for Ideas: How Firms Exploit the Prior Inventions of New Hires,"
NBER Working Papers
15869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Jasjit Singh & Ajay Agrawal, 2011. "Recruiting for Ideas: How Firms Exploit the Prior Inventions of New Hires," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(1), pages 129-150, January.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16993. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.