Discussion paper

DP11800 Rage Against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England

Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the famous `Captain Swing' riots in 1830s England. Newly-collected data on threshing machine discusion shows that labor-saving technology was associated with more riots. We instrument technology adoption with the share of heavy soils in a parish: IV estimates show that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where alternative employment opportunities softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. In areas affected by the Swing riots in 1830-32, technology adoption and patenting rates slowed down for decades thereafter.

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Citation

Voth, H and B Caprettini (eds) (2017), “DP11800 Rage Against the Machines: Labor-Saving Technology and Unrest in Industrializing England”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 11800. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11800