Billettes and the economic viability of pin-making in 1700

Abstract : The activity of pin-making became well-known in economic theory thanks to Adam Smith's certainly because it was the only manufacturing process for which he had the necessary data to calculate productivity. One may ask for what reason French encyclopaedists collected and published information on pin-making work-rates, but not for other (crafts ?)trades. The purpose of this paper is to show across the early works of Billettes and then of Perronnet, how the economic relexion about pin-making activity emerged. The study is based on the only two traces of this first scholarly work on pin-making: a plate from 1702 and a handwritten document. More than 60 years later, once these descriptions had been published, Adam Smith used this example to illustrate his law concerning the division of labour. Pin-making was the backdrop for a cumulative process of data collection and their use in answering questions which were completely new at the time.
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Jean-Louis Peaucelle, Stéphane Manin. Billettes and the economic viability of pin-making in 1700. Eleven World Congress of Accounting Historians, Jul 2006, Nantes, France. ⟨hal-01404345⟩

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