This research explores the effect of early industrialisation on human capital formation. Exploiting exogenous regional variations in the adoption of steam engines across France, the study suggests that, in contrast to conventional wisdom that views early industrialisation as a predominantly deskilling process, the industrial revolution was conducive for human capital formation, generating wide-ranging gains in literacy rates and educational attainment. However, this increase in human capital formation was limited to basic literacy and numeracy and did not entail an increase in the share of pupils in middle and high schools in the population.
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