Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Gregory Veeck


This dissertation examines the relationship between technological change and spatial industrial restructuring through a case study of the 1840-1880 British ocean-going iron and steam shipbuilding industry. The study tests the hypothesis that a shipbuilding center's share of the national British shipbuilding market was associated with its ability to generate or rapidly adopt technological change. The study begins by establishing iron steamship technological changes introduced by British shipbuilders and the industry's attendant spatial restructuring It then develops two site-specific variables: industrial viability and innovative ability. Data for both variables are obtained from the Lloyds Register of British and Foreign Shipping. The industrial viability variable ranks each shipbuilding center's annual share of the total national shipbuilding market in terms of its being a high, medium or low market share center. Innovative ability establishes each center's level of technological sophistication, in terms of either a technological leader or laggard, based on significant component technologies. These technologies are identified through a series of multiple regression models which, in addition to identifying significant technologies, allow for the testing of key assumptions in the historical literature regarding 1840-1880 British iron steamship technological change. The relationship is assessed by testing for a statistical association between the industrial viability and innovative ability rankings using contingency tables in conjunction with the chi-square statistic. Additional analysis includes measurement of the strength and direct of the association and identification and assignment of individual table cells that make significant contributions to the overall chi-square statistic. The results demonstrate that industrial viability and innovative ability were associated. Further, the association was positive, although weak to moderate, indicating that innovative ability, while important, was not a precondition for an 1840-1880 shipbuilding center's industrial viability. Also, small shipbuilding centers that produced small, technologically lagging ships for the British coastal trade made a significant contribution to the association. These findings suggest that other consideration, such as access to markets, initial advantages, and factor inputs were as important as innovative ability in explaining the industry's spatial restructuring.