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Rage against the machines: labor-Saving technology and unrest in England, 1830-32


Caprettini, Bruno; Voth, Hans-Joachim (2018). Rage against the machines: labor-Saving technology and unrest in England, 1830-32. CEPR Discussion Papers 11800, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

Abstract

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the ‘Captain
Swing’ riots in 1830s England. Newly-collected data on threshing machine adoption shows
that new technology was associated with both higher unemployment and more riots. We
instrument technology adoption with access to water power and wheat suitability: IV
estimates suggest that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where vibrant
labor markets softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. In the aftermath of
the riots, technology adoption and patenting rates slowed down in areas close to Swing riots
in 1830-32.

Abstract

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the ‘Captain
Swing’ riots in 1830s England. Newly-collected data on threshing machine adoption shows
that new technology was associated with both higher unemployment and more riots. We
instrument technology adoption with access to water power and wheat suitability: IV
estimates suggest that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where vibrant
labor markets softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. In the aftermath of
the riots, technology adoption and patenting rates slowed down in areas close to Swing riots
in 1830-32.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:P16, J21, J43, N33
Uncontrolled Keywords:Labor-saving technology, social instability, riots, welfare support, agricultural technology, factor prices and technological change
Language:English
Date:June 2018
Deposited On:09 Feb 2018 09:59
Last Modified:17 Sep 2019 19:08
Series Name:CEPR Discussion Papers
Number of Pages:79
ISSN:0265-8003
Additional Information:Revised version
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2905046
Official URL:https://cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11800#

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