Mechanization and the spatial distribution of industries in the German Empire, 1875 to 1907

Authors:
Theresa Gutberlet
Published Online:
18 Dec 2013
DOI:
10.1111/1468-0289.12028
Pages:
463–491
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 67 Issue 2

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The adoption of water, steam, and electric power transformed manufacturing in the nineteenth century. This article studies the relationship between this technological change and the spatial distribution of manufacturing industries in the German Empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The adoption of steam powered machinery created incentives for manufacturers to form industry clusters near coal mining regions. Specifically, this article shows that a one standard deviation increase in the average size of steam power operations was associated with a rise in geographic concentration of one‐quarter of a standard deviation. In contrast, a one standard deviation increase in the size of water power operations was associated with a drop in geographic concentration of one‐sixth of a standard deviation. This is consistent with the constraint that water powered plants had to be located on a stream with a sufficient gradient and away from other water powered plants to avoid disruption from neighbouring gates and dams. Together the findings indicate that the transition from water to steam powered machinery contributed to the geographic concentration of manufacturing in the nineteenth century.

© Economic History Society 2013

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