Patterns of Innovation during the Industrial Revolution: A Reappraisal using a Composite Indicator of Patent Quality

Alessandro Nuvolari, Valentina Tartari, Matteo Tranchero

Research output: Working paperResearch


We introduce a new bibliographic quality indicator for English patents granted in the period 1700-1850. The indicator is based on the visibility of each patent both in the contemporary legal and engineering literature and in modern authoritative works on the history of science and technology. The indicator permits to operationalize empirically the distinction between micro and macroinventions. Our findings indicate that macroinventions did not exhibit any specific time clustering, while at the same time they were characterized by a labor-saving bias. These results suggest that Mokyr's and Allen's views of macroinventions, rather than conflicting, should be regarded as complementary.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherCentre for Economic Policy Research
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
SeriesCentre for Economic Policy Research. Discussion Papers


  • Industrial revolution
  • Patents
  • Macroinventions
  • Microinventions

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