Skip to content


Case 3: Transport and technology /2547

>> Download and print the worksheet.

  • Read the articles below and answer the questions on the worksheet.
  • Remember that you will be marked on participation and engagement and that this contributes to your coursework grade for the module.

** Bring your completed worksheet to the tutorial (as well as the article) **

Primary reading

Crafts, N (2004), The economic impact of ICT: a perspective from the age of steam, The Esmée Fairbairn Lecture delivered at Lancaster University on November 18

Discussion  questions

  1. What key characteristics do the economic impact of steam in the 19th century and ICT in more recent decades appear to share, according to Crafts?
  2. Explain the trends evident in the cost and relative significance of steam power over the 18th and 19th centuries [see table 1a, 1b, 2]
  3. Explain the concept of ‘social saving’ in relation to railways. Why was the (private) profitability of rail companies “solid” rather than “spectacular”?
  4. What were the wider economic effects on communication and transport that steam power* brought over the 19th century?
    (* note: not just rail)

Background reading

Allen, R (2009), Engels’ pause: Technical change, capital accumulation, and inequality in the British industrial revolution, Explorations in Economic History, v46 pp418-435

Bogart, D, Shaw-Taylor, L and You, Xuesheng (2018), The development of the railway network in Britain 1825-1911, in Shaw-Taylor, L et al (eds), The Online Historical Atlas of Transport, Urbanization and Economic Development in England and Wales c.1680-1911, Cambridge Cultural and Historical Geography thematic research group.

Crafts, N (2003), Steam as General Purpose Technology: A growth accounting perspective, LSE Working Paper No. 75/03, May

Crafts, N, Mills, T and Mulatu, A (2005), Total Factor Productivity Growth On Britain’s Railways, 1852-1912: A Reappraisal Of The Evidence, LSE Working Paper No. 07/05, Feb

Fernihough, A and O’Rourke, K (2014), Coal and the European industrial revolution, University of Oxford Discussion Papers in Economic and Social History, Number 124, January

Kelly, M, Mokyr, J and O Gráda (2013), Precocious Albion: a new interpretation of the British industrial revolution, UCD Centre for Economic Research Working Paper Series,WP13/11, September

Reflective question [for w25 Reflective Journals]

Where would one rank the ‘steam revolution’ against later waves of technological change, such as electrification in the early 20th century or IT in the later 20th century (and on what basis)?