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Contribution Details

Type Working Paper
Scope Discipline-based scholarship
Title Rage against the machines: labor-Saving technology and unrest in England, 1830-32
Organization Unit
  • Bruno Caprettini
  • Hans-Joachim Voth
  • English
Institution Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
Series Name CEPR Discussion Papers
Number 11800
ISSN 0265-8003
Number of Pages 79
Date 2018
Abstract Text 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.
Official URL
Digital Object Identifier 10.2139/ssrn.2905046
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Keywords Labor-saving technology, social instability, riots, welfare support, agricultural technology, factor prices and technological change
Additional Information Revised version