Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Transferring technical knowledge and innovating in Europe, c.1200-c.1800

Epstein, Stephan R. (2005) Transferring technical knowledge and innovating in Europe, c.1200-c.1800. Working papers on the nature of evidence: how well do 'facts' travel? (01/05). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Download (232kB) | Preview


The role of technology in the transition from premodern to modern economies in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe is among the major questions in economic history, but it is still poorly understood. A plausible explanation of premodern European technological development must account for why Europe industrialised in advance of the great Asian civilisations, despite still being a comparative backwater in the twelfth century. What appears to set Western Europe apart is not that technological progress occurred at a faster rate than elsewhere, but that progress was more persistent and uninterrupted. The technical knowledge of premodern craftsmen and engineers was largely experience-based; thus, virtually all premodern technical knowledge was, and had to be, transferred in the flesh. However, the implications for premodern economic history of the basic cognitive limitations to how technical knowledge can be expressed, processed, and transmitted have yet to be examined in any detail. This paper asks how premodern European societies were able to generate incremental technical innovation under three headings: How was premodern technical knowledge stored to avoid loss? How were tacit, visual, verbal, and written means of transmission used heuristically? How was established and new knowledge transmitted?

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2005 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2009 12:58
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:36
Projects: Large-Scale Technological Change
Funders:, Economic and Social Research Council

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics