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Call for research papers 2021 "The knowledge economy. Innovation, productivity and economic growth, 13th to 18th century", Prato, 53rd Study Week, 9-12 May 2021

04-07-2019 00:03

The LIII Settimana invites research papers on how organizational, technological, and scientific innovations spurred productivity gains and economic growth from the thirteenth through eighteenth centuries. Can the paradigms and theories that have emerged to explain how the knowledge economy stimulated the Industrial Revolution be usefully applied to the pre-modern period? To what extent can we identify ‘useful knowledge’ (Simon Kuznets) as a source of economic growth? What kinds of cultural, economic, and institutional structures provided the most hospitable environment for the application of scientific knowledge to innovations that promoted competition, efficiency, quality, specialization, tools, access to information, and other measures of productivity? The LIII Settimana will reflect on these relationships as well as their influence on the recovery capacity of European medieval and early modern societies after demographic, economic, and military crises.

Scholars have pointed to the substantial transformations that occurred in ‘useful knowledge’ in the late medieval and early modern period, but in assessing the impact of these transformations on economic growth, they have tended to highlight institutional and social contexts more than technological innovations. Assumptions about the slower diffusion of scientific knowledge and ideas in the pre-modern era also need rethinking since the pre-modern era was not a homogenous whole. Could the relatively quick economic recovery after the epidemic crises in the second half of the fourteenth century have been related to the spread of technical and commercial knowledge? Similarly, the relationship between the increasingly intensive commercialization of the sixteenth century and the growing attraction of natural philosophers to the practical difficulties of agriculture and industry needs further investigation. The Knowledge Revolution of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has been linked, moreover, to the (Second) Commercial Revolution and framed as a prerequisite to the Industrial Revolution.

These issues are at the centre of the Datini Study Week, which invites scholars to analyze the relationship of the knowledge economy to innovations, productivity, and economic growth in the pre-modern period (13th–18th centuries) by considering the following questions: How was ‘useful knowledge’ transmitted among individuals, across space, and over generations? How could commercial and industrial productivity be associated with the expansion of such knowledge? When and where was useful knowledge amassed in such a way that a relatively great number of innovations and inventions could touch off revolutionary breakthroughs in particular sectors of the economy? The Study Week will make a decisive contribution to our understanding of the knowledge economy as a fundamental element in the development of technology, industry, and commerce in pre-modern Europe.

Expected results

The selected papers will be presented and discussed at Prato in the course of the Study Week 2021. After the discussion at the Settimana sessions, scholars should complete and revise their texts by 30 June 2021. All contributions received by the Institute will be subject to anonymous adjudication before publication.

Call for papers

Scholars are invited to send their proposal by compiling an abstract that will be reviewed by the Executive Committee.

The paper should represent an original contribution and be either generally comparative or a specific case-study that speaks to the larger questions set out here. Participants who are pursuing a PhD, should have completed it before the start of the conference.

Papers proposed by projects or collaborative groups that link scholars from different countries and institutions will be assessed with particular interest if they offer a comparative analysis in geographical or diachronic terms across two or more related research themes. We will also consider innovative session formats for these type of proposals. 

The completed format must be received at the following address by 1 November 2019
Fondazione Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica “F. Datini”
Via ser Lapo Mazzei 37, I 59100 Prato, ITALY
e-mail: datini[at]

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