Rage Against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England

70 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017 Last revised: 7 Oct 2019

See all articles by Bruno Caprettini

Bruno Caprettini

University of Zurich

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the famous `Captain Swing' riots in 1830s England. Newly-collected data on threshing machine discusion shows that labor-saving technology was associated with more riots. We instrument technology adoption with the share of heavy soils in a parish: IV estimates show that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where alternative employment opportunities softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. In areas affected by the Swing riots in 1830-32, technology adoption and patenting rates slowed down for decades thereafter.

Keywords: agricultural technology, factor prices and technological change, Labor-saving technology, riots, social instability, welfare support

JEL Classification: J21, J43, N33, P16

Suggested Citation

Caprettini, Bruno and Voth, Hans-Joachim, Rage Against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England (January 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11800. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2904322

Bruno Caprettini (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Z├╝rich
Switzerland

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society ( email )

Raemistrasse 71
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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