England's Eighteenth Century Demand for High-Quality Workmanship: Evidence from Apprenticeship, 1710-1770

24 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2013

See all articles by Karine van der Beek

Karine van der Beek

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 6, 2013

Abstract

In his seminal book, The Enlightened Economy, Joel Mokyr argued that "in Britain the high quality of workmanship available to support innovation, local and imported, helped create the Industrial Revolution". By these, Mokyr refers to "the top 3-5 percent of the labor force in terms of skills: engineers, mechanics, millwrights, chemists, clock- and instrument makers, skilled carpenters and metal workers, wheelwrights, and similar workmen." This article provides empirical evidence from different sources that supports Mokyr's claim. Mainly, I use evidence on apprenticeship that covers all England between 1710 and 1770 and show that in the eighteenth century the most relevant occupation within this group of "high-quality workmen" was the wright, a workmen who "Erects and installs, in place of use, machinery and other mechanical equipment". I find that the share of apprentices bind to wrights, carpenters, joiners and turners increased throughout the eighteenth century. These findings indicate that this was the relevant group of workmen in a period of mechanization and technological change.

Keywords: Industrial Revolution, skills, high quality workmen, wrights, mechanization, apprenticeship

JEL Classification: I20, J44, N13, N33, O30

Suggested Citation

van der Beek, Karine, England's Eighteenth Century Demand for High-Quality Workmanship: Evidence from Apprenticeship, 1710-1770 (January 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2197054 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2197054

Karine Van der Beek (Contact Author)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Department of Economics ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105
Israel

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