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

61 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019 Last revised: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Assaf Sarid

Assaf Sarid

University of Haifa

Joel Mokyr

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

Karine van der Beek

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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Date Written: November 2019

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: economic growth, England, Human Capital, Industrialization, mechanical skills, watermill

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

Suggested Citation

Sarid, Assaf and Mokyr, Joel and van der Beek, Karine, The Wheels of Change: Technology Adoption, Millwrights, and Persistence in Britain's Industrialization (November 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14138, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3496627

Assaf Sarid (Contact Author)

University of Haifa ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

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)

Karine Van der Beek

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

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

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