August 18, 2009
Methane levels and the rise of (extensive) farming in Europe and Asia (The Economist)
Here’s a new article in The Economist showing evidence of climate change in the ice polars caps at the same time agrarian societies emerged.
The ice-core record shows that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere made an anomalous upturn about 7,000 years ago, and that methane levels, which were also falling, began to increase about 5,000 years ago. These numbers correspond well with the rise of farming in Europe and Asia.
It appears that the extensive farming method used by early farmers was responsible of a more than proportional increase in methane, a greenhouse gas. Yet another point for Georgescu-Roegen and thermoeconomics.
May 25, 2009
On Monday the 25th and Tuesday the 26th, a conference on “Ambitions and Reality: Historical Perspectives on the Common Agricultural Policy” will be held in the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Paris. Also on Monday, Stephen Haber (Stanford University) will present a paper on the myth of the resource course in the Economic History Seminar in Mexico City.
On Wednesday the 27th, a workshop on “Les langues du commerce à l’époque moderne” will be held at the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme, in Aix-en-Provence, France. You can contact Olivier Raveux if you wish more information on this event. Also on Wednesday, the VonGremp Workshop in Economic and Entrepreneurial History hosts Robert Margo (Boston University). Margo will present his paper Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-1860.
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March 22, 2009
Goldstone, Jack A. (2003) “Feeding the people, starving the state: China’s Agricultural Revolution of the 17th/18th Centuries”, paper for the EHES Istanbul conference, 43p.
This article is available online
The Chinese population jumped from 120 to 350 million between 1620 and 1800. Many historians have assumed that the necessary growth of the agricultural output had been reached through a process of “involution” (i.e. not through gains in labour productivity, but thanks to increased effort; p.1). This stagnation of the output per person has been seen as the reverse of what happened in England at the same time: the agricultural revolution (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »
March 20, 2009
North, Douglass C. (1959) “Agriculture and Regional Economic Growth”, Journal of Farm Economics, 41/5, 943-951.
“There seems to be agreement amongst economist that agriculture contributes little to economic growth”. Worse it may even delay development as agricultural comparative advantage may attract production factors away from the most moderns sectors of the economy. At best, progress in agriculture is seen as a consequence rather than a cause of urban and industrial development (p.943). But the author argues that “the successful production of agricultural (or indeed most extractive) commodities for sale [outside of] the region can be and under certain conditions has been the prime influence inducing economic growth […] and eventually industrial development”. Read the rest of this entry »
March 12, 2009
I am presently in Morocco for research purposes. As the things were getting a bit slow in the last few days due to the public holiday meant to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet, I decided to indulge in my geekiness and I undertook a micro research. I am fascinated by the elegance of economic geography; I enjoy watching the market spread in space as much as others like to watch birds; so that’s just what I did, my Excel sheet in one hand and my binoculars in the other (for the birds, you never know). Read the rest of this entry »
February 9, 2009
Brenner, Robert (1976) “Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe”, Past and Present, 70/1, 30-75.
In this article, the author offers one of the most commented “general interpretations of the processes of long-term economic change in late medieval and early modern Europe”. He rejects the rigid Malthusian theory based solely on the laws of supply and demand and introduces class struggle as the key element driving European pre-industrial economic history (p.30). Read the rest of this entry »
January 17, 2009
Carville Earle and Hoffman Ronald (Dec. 1980) “The Foundation of the Modern Economy: Agriculture and the Costs of Labor in the United States and England, 1800-60” The American Historical Review 85/5: 1055-1094.
Traditionally (so-called Habakkuk thesis), labour shortage is said to be the cause of the mechanization of the American agriculture in the early 19th century. The authors have compared the Northern grain-belt, the South slave-based and the English agriculture to check that claim. In the North (monoculture), extensive use of labour was only necessary for the harvest, which created an available and cheap workforce for the urban industries, and allowed savings to be invested in mechanized agriculture. In England (diversified agriculture) and in the South, the labour season took most of the year hence the wages were going up. In the English case it hindered the use of machinery in the agriculture and in the South the industrial take off all together. Read the rest of this entry »
January 1, 2009
Richardson Gary (2005) “The Prudent Village: Risk Pooling Institution in Medieval English Agriculture”, The Journal Of Economic History, 65/2, 386-413.
In this somewhat cumbersome article, Richardson argues against McCloskey’s widely accepted vision of the medieval peasant’s management of the risk of crop failures by scattering his arable land throughout his village. This strategy had a major shortcoming: it significantly reduced average crop yield, but according to Mc Closkey, no better option was available to mitigate the risks of everyday agrarian life (p.386).
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December 21, 2008
Grantham George (1999) “Contra Ricardo: On the macroeconomics of pre-industrial economies”, European Review of Economic History, 2/2, 199-232.
The Classical Approach (Ricardian trap): “The narrative line of [European] history is driven by a sequence of exogenous productivity and mortality shocks that worked themselves out in time through the feedbacks between living standards and population density, in which periods of growth were succeeded by periods of contraction induced” by declining labour productivity.”
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August 17, 2008
Reis Mourão Paulo (2007) “Uma visao integrada sobre a Companhia das Vinhas do Alto Douro”, Fênix. Revista de História e Estudos Culturais, 4/3, 11p.
This article is available on line
The creation of the Company of the Wines of the High Douro took place at a time when many of these companies were created by the state. By the 1740s when the talks about the creation of the company started, Port wines (or Oporto wines as they were then called) had already a thousands years history and had met international success on the western European markets since the 1600s. Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2008
Kessler David and Temin Peter (2007) “The organization of the grain trade in the early Roman Empire”, Economic History Review, 60/2, 313–332.
“Long-distance trade […] was beset by information problems”. Principal-agent issues have been studied for the medieval/early modern period, this article extends the scope to the Roman merchants. Who did they deal with asymmetric information? In particular how did the logistical nightmare that consisted of providing wheat to Rome’s inhabitants was overcome (313)? After the end of organized piracy in 67 BC, there was still a significant amount of uncertainty for the merchants. How did they managed their agents often located months away in distant provinces? Read the rest of this entry »
May 25, 2008
Grantham George W. and Sarget Marie-Noëlle (1997) “Espaces privilégiés : productivité agraire et zones d’approvisionnement des villes dans l’Europe préindustrielle” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 52/3, 695–725
Article available on line.
Low agricultural productivity and high transportation costs before the second half of the 19th century induced a low demographic density (695). In 1821, J. H. von Thünen showed that – due to these characteristics – a series of specialised agrarian rings tended to encircle the cities and ordered so as to minimize transportation costs. The most precious productions (milk, vegetable) were located close to the urban centres, while the bulkiest (wood, grain) tended to be rejected further. Read the rest of this entry »