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Technological Dynamism in a Stagnant Sector: Safety at Sea during the Early Industrial Revolution

Morgan Kelly and Cormac Ó Gráda ()

No 201711, Working Papers from School of Economics, University College Dublin

Abstract: Against the consensus that sailing ship technology was stagnant during the early Industrial Revolution, we find striking improvements in safety at sea. Between 1760 and 1825, the risk of being wrecked for Atlantic shipping fell by one third, and of foundering by two thirds, reflecting improvements in seaworthiness and navigation respectively. Seaworthiness improved through replacing the traditional stepped deck ship with stronger flushed decked ones derived from Indian designs, and the increasing use of iron reinforcement. Improved navigation owed little to precise longitude estimation and stemmed mostly from accurate charts and instruments, and accessible manuals of navigational technique.

Keywords: Technological progress; Shipping (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N0 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-gro, nep-his, nep-ino and nep-tre
Date: 2017-06
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http://hdl.handle.net/10197/8728 First version, 2017 (application/pdf)

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