England's Eighteen-Century Demand for High-Quality Workmanship: Evidence from Apprenticeship, 1710-1770

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


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 workmen who "Erects and installs, in place of use, machinery and other mechanical equipment". I find that the share of apprentices bind 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitutions, Innovation, and Industrialization
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Economic History and Development
EditorsAvner Greif, Lynne Kiesling, John V. C. Nye
PublisherPrinceton University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780691210629
ISBN (Print)9780691157344
StatePublished - 4 Jan 2015


  • Industrial Revolution
  • skills
  • high quality workmen
  • wrights
  • mechanization
  • apprenticeship


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