WP 7 - Understanding Technological Transformations: A Comparative Historical Perspective

WP7 provides a rigorous historical and theoretical background to our understanding of technological revolutions and to apply that understanding to policy prescription in the present. Analysing the effect of technological and related structural transformations in Europe and the US since the first Industrial Revolution, we both undertake stand-alone research into the socio-economic effects of past transformations, and supply other WPs with historical data and precedents. Rather than the technological determinism that dominates so many policy narratives, this WP demonstrates how policies and regulation shaped previous technological revolutions to the needs of society, creating new types of demand and employment in the process.


  1. Historical perspective on industrial revolutions – to prepare a meta-analysis of the existing work on the socio-economic impact of technological transformations, looking at the different theories and definitions of technological revolutions.
  2. Data gathering on the ‘Luddite legacy’ - working with UTU and UHEL we look at databases and qualitative historical sources to highlight the public discourse of fears of, and assess the numerical reality of technological unemployment and deskilling in each transformation, from the 1830-1971. This will be a comparative undertaking, looking at regional and sectoral losses in each period.
  3. Assessing impact on job creation and income equality - study of both employment databases and qualitative sources to assess the impact on job creation and income equality of systemic change.
  4. A comparative analysis of government policies for synergistic transformations - a comparative analysis of government policies in the UK, Germany, US and Sweden on reskilling and education; in service of both the ‘new tech’ industries and the complementary jobs in services and new lifestyles.
  5. Lessons for policymakers from history. Analysing the patterns from the historical research done during the project to evaluate the implications for employment, equality and social welfare in the current transition, and the lessons for future policy-making.
Contact person:
Josh Ryan-Collins at email j.ryan-collins@ucl.ac.uk