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

Alessandro Nuvolari*, Valentina Tartari, Matteo Tranchero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The distinction between macro- and microinventions is at the core of recent debates on the Industrial Revolution. Yet, the empirical testing of this notion has remained elusive. We address this issue by introducing a new quality indicator for all patents granted in England in the period 1700–1850. The indicator provides the opportunity for a large-scale empirical appraisal of macro- and microinventions. Our findings indicate that macroinventions did not exhibit any specific time-clustering, while microinventions were characterized by clustering behavior. In addition, we also find that macroinventions displayed a labor-saving bias and were mostly introduced by professional engineers. These results suggest that Allen’s and Mokyr’s views of macroinventions, rather than conflicting, should be regarded as complementary.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101419
JournalExplorations in Economic History
Number of pages19
ISSN0014-4983
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 23 June 2021.

Keywords

  • Industrial revolution
  • Patents
  • Macroinventions
  • Microinventions

Cite this