Technological Change

Christine MacLeod and Allesandro Nuvolari

in The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199291205
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Technological Change

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During the eighteenth century Europeans embarked on a revolutionary phase of economic growth and social change, the full environmental costs of which are only just beginning to be recognized. 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, as never before had it been possible to expand an economy fast enough to accommodate both. The causes of this shift into sustained (if ultimately unsustainable) economic growth are still debated, but there can be no doubt that the fundamental driver has been technological change. This article explores the nature of those new technologies and reasons why Europeans began to invest (literally and metaphorically) in technical innovation.

Keywords: economic growth; social change; technological change; Europeans; long-distance trade; technical innovation; new technologies

Article.  9538 words. 

Subjects: History

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