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Moving machine-makers. The circulation of knowledge on machine-building in China and Europe between c.1400 and the early 19th century

Moving machine-makers. The circulation of knowledge on machine-building in China and Europe between c.1400 and the early 19th century

By Karel Davids

Paper from Epstein Memorial Conference, ‘Technologies and Human Capital Formation in the East and West’, London, 19-21 June 2008

Synopsis: A comparison of China and Europe between the late 14th century and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, will be the subject of this paper. The first two sections will look into the patterns of circulation of knowledge in machine-making in China and Europe, and the similarities and differences that therein can be observed. Circulation of knowledge on machine-making denotes the whole gamut of movements and exchanges of knowledge on the construction of machines, both in a spatial sense (whether on a intercontinental or a local scale) and in the sense of acquisition and transmission through time.  The third section discusses the possible implications of these findings for understanding of how the knowledge economy in China and Europe before the nineteeth century actually worked.

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