book cover logo Cambridge

An Economic History of Europe

Materials, data, examples, debates

time series
Updates and
Technology Topics Videos Support
for teachers
The author


Here is an overview of what's new in Economic History: topics of current discussions, controversies, debates.
In every section you also find a selection of further readings.

Interventions and suggestions regarding current research topics, debates and readings are most welcome!
They will be posted if/where relevant.

Please write to karlgunnar dot persson at econ dot ku dot dk.

Was there growth before the Industrial revolution?

The view that pre-industrial Europe was characterized by poverty and stagnation is challenged by new research.
There are now reports from reconstructions of historical national accounts which tend to change our view of pre-industrial Europe (...) (Clark-Persson debate)

Does History Matter?

Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?
In a recent article published on AEJ (2010), Diego Comin, William Easterly and Erick Gong tackle the question through a dataset on technology adoption in 1000 bc, 0 ad, and 1500 AD for the predecessors to today's nation states.

From the abstract: Technological differences are surprisingly persistent over long periods of time. Our most interesting, strong, and robust results are for the association of 1500 AD technology with per capita income and technology adoption today. We also find robust and significant technological persistence from 1000 BC to 0 AD, and from 0 AD to 1500 AD. The evidence is consistent with a model where the cost of adopting new technologies declines sufficiently with the current level of adoption..


Is openness good for growth?

Generally, economists agree that openness (in the wider sense of the word), foreign trade and other forms of international exchange are positively related to economic growth. However, it is a question whether openness causes growth, or growth leads to more trade and attracts foreign investment. The answer probably lies in openness and growth being parts of a virtuous circle. (...) (READ MORE)

Malthus: Dismal science or just dismally wrong?

In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus presented a theory which was to have a lasting impact on economics and the popular imagination. He postulated that any increase in living standards would simply allow the population to expand. Since the supply of land is limited (...) (READ MORE)

The Convergence Debate

During the 1500s, cross-country income differences were by all accounts minor. At most, per capita income varied on a scale of 1:2. By 2009, however, global inequality in income per capita has grown tremendously: cross-country income differences on a 1:30 scale can easily be found. Hence, the last five centuries have witnessed divergence. Are these disparities of a permanent nature, (...) (READ MORE)

Globalization and the Welfare State:
A Race to the Bottom?

The contrast between 1870 and 1914 was stark. In 1870, labor and social protection was scarce and by 1914, although uneven, it was not uncommon, especially in Europe. But during these decades trade increased in a spectacular fashion. How can we reconcile globalization and more social protection? (...) (READ MORE)