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Maddison: Role of science and technology

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Technology is a bit of a vague word. A lot of people immediately think of industry and motor cars or aeroplanes and so forth. I wouldn't like to separate out technology from other influences on growth. For instance, if you look at the position of Western Europe since the year 1000. In the year 1000 there were no universities in Europe. The first one was in Bologna in 1080. Then you had the invention of printing in Europe, quite independent of what had happened in China. That was in the middle of the 15th century. That entirely changed the possibilities of the university education, because before that books were mainly iconic. If you look at books before that, they were heavily illustrated. It would take some monk about a year or a couple of years to write it and then it had to be decorated. But after that you had books which were full of knowledge and you had competition. Printing started in Germany, but it quickly went to Italy. In Venice around 1500 you published 8 million books. So if you call that technology, yes. I think it had a major impact. But also basic science. You had people like Galileo or Newton who where taking a different view of the universe. That in itself gave a push to academies of science, which you had in France and the UK in the 17th century. The whole business of scientifically testing hypotheses and developing technology is something which happened in Western Europe. It didn't happen in China, because specialists on Chinese technology reckoned that this was a big country and it had one language, so there were ways of spreading knowledge of technology. But there wasn't an organized effort at scientific research, in the sense of publication and exchange of information. So I think that technology is important, but you can't leave out other intellectual influences.

Added on 13 Apr 2017