The spinning jenny and the guillotine: technology diffusion at the time of revolutions

Abstract : Scale economies and demand, combined with the relative prices of input factors, can provide an economic explanation to the location and timing of the Industrial Revolution. Its labor-saving innovations were profitable only above a minimum output threshold, which allowed to cover the upfront cost of capital. In turn, the possibility to exceed such threshold depended on consumer demand, which was affected by the level and by the distribution of real income. The case of the spinning jenny and the cotton industry in England and France serves as a valuable case study to show how scale and demand considerations might have mattered even at the eve of the Industrial Revolution, thus implying also a potentially important role for income distribution.
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Contributor : Ugo Gragnolati <>
Submitted on : Saturday, April 2, 2016 - 1:34:00 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 5:50:04 PM

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Ugo Gragnolati, Moschella Daniele, Pugliese Emanuele. The spinning jenny and the guillotine: technology diffusion at the time of revolutions. Cliometrica, Springer Verlag, 2014, 8 (1), pp.5-26. ⟨10.1007/s11698-012-0092-9⟩. ⟨hal-01297059⟩

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