Technological Change during the Ancient Regime


Alessandro Nuvolari, TU/e, ECIS (Eindhoven Centre for Innovation Studies)

Alessandro Nuvolari will present a chapter that he is planning to publish in The Oxford Handbook of Ancien Regime.
During the eighteenth century Europeans embarked on a revolutionary phase of economic growth and social change. Breaking free from an essentially subsistence economy to embrace the market and long-distance trade, they led the world into sustained economic growth. This has allowed the unprecedented phenomenon of long-term population increase in tandem with a rising standard of living; previously one type of gain had always been at the other’s expense, since never before had it been possible to expand an economy fast enough to accommodate both. Historians continue to debate the fundamental causes of this shift into sustained economic growth, but there can be no doubt that the principal driver has been technological change. In this chapter, the author will explore the nature of those new technologies and reasons why Europeans began to invest (literally and metaphorically) in technical innovation. This chapter contains a broad historiographical survey of the contributions in the field of economic history and history of technology which have addressed this critical historical phase, where the bases for the "rise of the West" were put into place. The author will also attempt to provide a new synthesis which integrates some previous contributions into a unified view.


About the speaker
Alessandro Nuvolari is Assistant Professor in the Economics of Science and Technology at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He has mainly worked on innovation and technical change during the British Industrial Revolution. He has published papers on Journal of European Economic History, Industrial and Corporate Change, Cambridge Journal of Economics and Technology & Culture. He is currently working on research project on the impact of the patent systems on inventive activities during the early phases of industrialization. The project is funded by the NWO.

Venue: Keizer Karelplein 19, Maastricht

Date: 20 September 2007

Time: 16:00 - 17:00


UNU-MERIT