Karine van der Beek

In his seminal book, The Enlightened Economy, Joel Mokyr argued that "in Britain the high quality of workmanship available to support innovation, local and imported, helped create the Industrial Revolution". By these, Mokyr refers to "the top 3-5 percent of the labor force in terms of skills: engineers, mechanics, millwrights, chemists, clock- and instrument makers, skilled carpenters and metal workers, wheelwrights, and similar workmen." This article provides empirical evidence from different sources that supports Mokyr's claim. Mainly, I use evidence on apprenticeship that covers all England between 1710 and 1770 and show that in the eighteenth century the most relevant occupation within this group of "high-quality workmen" was the wright, a workman who "Erects and installs, in place of use, machinery and other mechanical equipment". I find that the share of apprentices bound to wrights, carpenters, joiners and turners increased throughout the eighteenth century. These findings indicate that this was the relevant group of workmen in a period of mechanization and technological change.

JEL Codes  
N13: Economic History: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations: Europe: Pre-1913
N33: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: Europe: Pre-1913
O30: Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights: General
industrial revolution
high-quality workers