The Wheels of Change: Technology Adoption, Millwrights, and Persistence in Britain’s Industrialization

58 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2019 Last revised: 28 Apr 2020

See all articles by Joel Mokyr

Joel Mokyr

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

Assaf Sarid

University of Haifa

Karine van der Beek

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 27, 2020

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of the early adoption of technology on the evolution of human capital and on industrialization, in the context of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. It shows that wrights, a group of highly skilled mechanical craftsmen, who specialized in water-powered machinery in 1710-50, was quite persistent over time and evolved in the early middle ages, in response to the adoption of water-power technology, first widely recorded in 1086 in the Domesday Book survey. Furthermore, our results suggest that in turn, the availability of physical infrastructure and of highly skilled wrights in locations that adopted watermills in the Middle Ages, jointly were a major factor in determining the location of English industry since the end of the thirteenth century, all the way to the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

Keywords: human capital, industrialization, economic growth, mechanical skills, watermill, millwrights, Industrial Revolution, England, 18th century, textile production, iron-making

JEL Classification: O14, O15, O33, N00, N13, N53, N73, N93

Suggested Citation

Mokyr, Joel and Sarid, Assaf and van der Beek, Karine, The Wheels of Change: Technology Adoption, Millwrights, and Persistence in Britain’s Industrialization (April 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3488587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3488587

Joel Mokyr

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
708-491-5693 (Phone)
708-491-7001 (Fax)

Assaf Sarid

University of Haifa ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

Karine Van der Beek (Contact Author)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

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

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
42
Abstract Views
320
PlumX Metrics