Innovation and its Finance in the 19th and 20th Centuries

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Gerben Bakker SAR 5.09


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics, BSc in Economics and Economic History and BSc in Economics with Economic History. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


Students taking the course as an outside option must have completed at least one other economic history course.

Course content

The course explores the relationship between innovation and the financing of it in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the impact on economic growth and how policy makers managed (or failed) to encourage innovation investment and technology adoption.

Technological change and organizational innovation are critical determinants of the pace of economic growth. This course looks at the specific ways in which innovation transformed industries around the world in the modern era. The course has a global reach though it will concentrate on countries in Northern Europe and the United States. Particular attention focuses on links between innovation and finance: finance is a fundamental input for almost every type of productive activity. The course will explore issues such as; the relationship between market size and structure and technological progress; how firms developed the capabilities to profit from new technologies; and how policy makers attempted to nurture institutions to stimulate investment and technology adoption. The course will therefore cover themes such as the process of invention, innovation typologies, the history of R&D management, anti-trust policy, corporate governance, organisational change, incentives, intellectual property rights and the regulation of technology and its finance more broadly.


This course is delivered through a series of seminars totalling 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual seminars and other online activities. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of both terms.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to write three essays or equivalent pieces of written work

Indicative reading

Naomi Lamoreaux and Kenneth Sokoloff eds., Financing Innovation in the United States, 1870 to the Present (MIT Press, 2007); Joel Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, (Princeton University Press, 2002); Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales, "Financial Dependence and Growth," American Economic Review 88 (1998): 559-586; Nathan Rosenberg, Inside the Black Box: Technology and Economics, (Cambridge University Press,1982); Joseph A. Schumpeter, "Can Capitalism Survive?" in his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (Routledge reprint, 1942, 2000); Benn Steil, David G. Victor and Richard R. Nelson eds., Technological Innovation and Economic Performance (Princeton University Press, 2002); John Sutton, Technology and Market Structure: Theory and History (MIT Press, 1998); James M. Utterback, Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation (Harvard Business School Press, 1996).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2019/20: 16

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Capped 2019/20: Yes (18)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills