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Rage against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England


Caprettini, Bruno; Voth, Hans-Joachim (2020). Rage against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England. American Economic Review: Insights, 2(3):305-320.

Abstract

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the famous “Captain Swing” riots in 1830s England. Newly collected data on threshing machine diffusion shows that labor-saving technology was associated with more riots. We instrument technology adoption with the share of heavy soils in a parish: IV estimates demonstrate that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where alternative employment opportunities softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. Conversely, where enclosures had impoverished workers, the effect of threshing machines on rioting was amplified. (JEL J24, L16, N13, N33, N53, O33, Q16)

Abstract

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the famous “Captain Swing” riots in 1830s England. Newly collected data on threshing machine diffusion shows that labor-saving technology was associated with more riots. We instrument technology adoption with the share of heavy soils in a parish: IV estimates demonstrate that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where alternative employment opportunities softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. Conversely, where enclosures had impoverished workers, the effect of threshing machines on rioting was amplified. (JEL J24, L16, N13, N33, N53, O33, Q16)

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:1 September 2020
Deposited On:30 Sep 2020 08:41
Last Modified:30 Sep 2020 10:17
Publisher:American Economic Association
ISSN:2640-205X
Additional Information:Copyright © 2020 American Economic Association
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1257/aeri.20190385
Project Information:

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