The Returns to Invention During the British Industrial Revolution

21 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2019

See all articles by Sean Bottomley

Sean Bottomley

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for European Legal History

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

It was a commonplace among contemporaries, and remains received wisdom today, that inventors were poorly remunerated during the industrial revolution. Adapting a dataset of 759 British inventors, this article presents the first large‐scale attempt to examine the issue systematically. Using probate information, the article shows that inventors were extremely wealthy relative to the adult male population. Inventors were also significantly wealthier than another group who would have received a similar inheritance (in terms of both financial and social capital) and entered similar occupations: their brothers. Their additional wealth was derived from inventive activities: invention paid.

Suggested Citation

Bottomley, Sean, The Returns to Invention During the British Industrial Revolution (May 2019). The Economic History Review, Vol. 72, Issue 2, pp. 510-530, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3367115 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ehr.12701

Sean Bottomley (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for European Legal History ( email )

Hansaallee 41
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
Germany

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