The contribution of economic history to the study of innovation and technical change: 1750-1914

Joel Mokyr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

56 Scopus citations


This chapter surveys the history of modern economic growth and suggests a number of mechanisms that drove the unprecedented technological thrust that account for the discontinuities of economic modernity. The Industrial Revolution and the subsequent developments did not just raise the level of technological capabilities; they changed the entire dynamics of how innovation comes about and the speeds of both invention and diffusion. For much of human history, innovation had been primarily a byproduct of normal economic activity, punctuated by periodical flashing insight that produced a macroinvention, such as water mills or the printing press. The mechanisms that account for innovation becoming a routine activity in terms of the production of useful knowledge are reviewed and linked to the "Baconian program" advocated by the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Economics of Innovation
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages40
Edition1 C
StatePublished - 2010

Publication series

NameHandbook of the Economics of Innovation
Number1 C
ISSN (Print)2210-8807


  • Economic growth
  • Industrial enlightenment
  • Industrial revolution
  • Innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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