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Religion and the Early Modern Patent System, 1560–1660

Dent, C.ORCID: 0000-0002-1801-713X (2017) Religion and the Early Modern Patent System, 1560–1660. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 6 (3). pp. 580-599.

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The early modern patent system existed at a time when religious belief was of significantly more importance than it is now. The impact of the Protestant nature of England, and that of Puritan thought (understood broadly), on the patents of the time is an underexplored aspect of their history. There are four ways in which the religion can be linked to the operation, and limitation of patents under Elizabeth, and the Stuart kings. First, a prime motivation for the importation of new technology into England was to strengthen the economy, in part, to make more difficult an invasion by Catholic Spain. Second, the 17th century curtailing the rights of the Crown to grant patents fits well with the Puritan actions against royal tyranny. Third, one of the key policy bases of the system-the promotion of employment-reflected the belief in the value of labour. Finally, while this is overemphasized by some, there is a link between 17th century Christian thought and the Enlightenment-thereby tying spiritual beliefs with the inventions that started the Industrial Revolution. Taken together, these aspects suggest that religion at least supported a number of the features of the patent system of the time.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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