Applied Economics: Economic Societies and the Rise of Useful Knowledge

Published: 16 February 2022

2 March. Professor Erik Hornung, University of Cologne

Professor Erik Hornung, University of Cologne

'Flow of Ideas: Economic Societies and the Rise of Useful Knowledge' (with Francesco Cinnirella and Julius Koschnick)
Wednesday 2 March, 3pm - 4.30pm 
Zoom online seminar

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We argue that economic societies, established during the eighteenth-century, reduced the costs of accessing useful knowledge and thereby contributed to the technological progress central to the Industrial Revolution. We estimate a robust positive relationship between local member density and innovation, combining location information for the universe of 3,300 members across active economic societies in Germany with those of patent holders and World's Fair exhibitors. The positive impact of societies on early establishment of vocational schools and training of skilled mechanical workers constitutes a potential mechanism. We also show that regions with members from the same society have a higher similarity in patenting, indicating that social networks facilitated spatial knowledge diffusion and shaped the geography of innovation.


Erik Hornung is Professor of Economic History at the University of Cologne. His main research interests are the determinants of long-run development and economic growth. He uses microeconometric methods to analyze the driving forces of the transition to the modern economic growth including aspects of institutional change, human capital formation, and technological diffusion. Before moving to Cologne, Erik Hornung was a Professor of Economics at the University of Bayreuth and held positions at the Max-Planck-Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance and the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich. He received his PhD from the LMU Munich in 2012.

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First published: 16 February 2022

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