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Speed under Sail, 1750-1850

Author

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  • Morgan Kelly
  • Cormac Ó Gráda

Abstract

We measure technological progress in oceanic shipping by using a large database of daily log entries from ships of the British and Dutch navies and East India Companies to estimate daily sailing speed in different wind conditions from 1750 to 1850. Against the consensus, dating back to North (1958, 1968), that the technology of sailing ships was static during this period, we find that average sailing speed in a moderate breeze (the usual summer conditions in the North Atlantic) rose by one third between 1780 and 1830; with greater increases at lower wind speeds. About one third of this improvement occurs when hulls are first copper plated in the 1780s, but the rest appears to be the result of incremental improvements in sails, rigging, and hull profiles.

Suggested Citation

  • Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2014. "Speed under Sail, 1750-1850," Working Papers 201410, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201410
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/5617
    File Function: First version, 2014
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Peter Solar, 2013. "Opening to the East: shipping between Europe and Asia, 1770-1830," Working Papers 13013, Economic History Society.
    2. Harley, C. Knick, 1988. "Ocean Freight Rates And Productivity, 1740-1913: The Primacy Of Mechanical Invention Reaffirmed," University of Western Ontario, Departmental Research Report Series 8802, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
    3. Simon Ville, 1986. "Total Factor Productivity in the English Shipping Industry: The North-east Coal Trade, 1700-1850′," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 39(3), pages 355-370, August.
    4. Douglass C. North, 1968. "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 953-953.
    5. Jan De Vries, 2010. "The limits of globalization in the early modern world," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(3), pages 710-733, August.
    6. Walton, Gary M., 1966. "A Quantitative Study of American Colonial Shipping: A Summary," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(4), pages 595-598, December.
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    Keywords

    Economic history; Technology; Transport;
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