MEHR Seminar: Joost Veenstra, University of Groningen, 'The Yanks of Europe: two technological paths in German manufacturing, 1907-1936'

Abstract: America's lead over Europe from the late nineteenth century onwards has often been contributed to differences in initial conditions, trapping Europe in a labour-intensive and low productive technological path. However, in the case of German manufacturing, this analysis does not align with qualitative evidence obtained from the German metal-engineering industry, which shows that German manufacturers actively copied or imported American machinery. On the basis of labour productivity comparisons in 1909 and 1935 we show that a limited number of German manufacturing industries managed to compete with their transatlantic counterparts, suggesting that these industries pursued an American technological path. Although labour in German manufacturing was located predominently in traditional industries, which remained stagnant between 1907 and 1936, the industries set up during the Second Industrial Revolution laid the foundation for Germany's industrial expansion in the twentieth century.