The returns to invention during the British industrial revolution

Authors:
SEAN BOTTOMLEY
Published Online:
23 May 2018
DOI:
10.1111/ehr.12701
Volume/Issue No:
Early View Articles

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Abstract

It was a commonplace among contemporaries, and remains received wisdom today, that inventors were poorly remunerated during the industrial revolution. Adapting a dataset of 759 British inventors, this article presents the first large‐scale attempt to examine the issue systematically. Using probate information, the article shows that inventors were extremely wealthy relative to the adult male population. Inventors were also significantly wealthier than another group who would have received a similar inheritance (in terms of both financial and social capital) and entered similar occupations: their brothers. Their additional wealth was derived from inventive activities: invention paid.

© Economic History Society 2018

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