Sessions of the Second Latin American Economic History Congress

September 21, 2009

Wordle: CLADHE-II: List of sessions

Here is the list of preapproved sessions  of the Second Latin American Economic History Congress (CLADHE-II), to be held in Mexico City on February 3-5, 2010. To submit a paper to any of the sessions, you have to go here.

Wordle: CLADHE-II: Lista de simposios

Glorious Revolution Week, the end: are institutional economics a gamy theory?

August 15, 2009

The Glorious Revolution is a cardinal event in the eyes of modern economic historiography. Not only did it provide the setting for the Industrial Revolution, but it also became a textbook example of the impact of institutional change upon the economy. The 1989 article by North and Weingast is said to be the most quoted in the discipline. Indeed it formalized the process of historical change, but also strongly hinted at what good institutions should be. Read the rest of this entry »

North D. and Weingast B. (1989) The economic impact of institutions

August 14, 2009

North, Douglass C. and Barry Weingast (1989) “Constitution and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutional Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England”, The Journal of Economic History, 49/4: 803-832.

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Disclaimer: this summary is written by the contributors of the blog and not by the author of the article. Any mistake is Manuel’s fault (and he shall be punished).

“Put simply, successful long-run economic performance requires appropriate incentives not only for economic actors but for political actors as well. Because the state has a comparative advantage in coercion, what prevents it from using violence to extract all the surplus?” Read the rest of this entry »

Lovejoy P. and Richardson D. (2001) Pawnship in West Africa during the slave trade

July 7, 2009

Lovejoy, Paul E. and Richardson, David (2001) “The Business of Slaving: Pawnship in Western Africa, c.1600-1810”, The Journal of African History, 42/1, 67-89.

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“The institution of pawnship, specially the use of people as collateral for credit, helped underpin the Atlantic slave trade” (p.68). Leaving people as collateral solve the trust issue attached to credit (p.69).

Several types of pawnships existed (p.70). Europeans often reported the habit for one to pawn himself if too poor to survive. People also often offered themselves as collateral for a credits and  if they failed to repay, they became slaves for debt (p.71). In domestic trade the use of pawns to guarantee a debt seem to have been fairly common in 18th-century West Africa. The institution seems to have been indigenous (p.72). Read the rest of this entry »

Dittmar J. (2008) The emergence of Zipf’s Law

April 2, 2009

Dittmar, Jeremiah (2008) “Cities, Institutions, and Growth: The Emergence of Zipf’s Law”, Job Market Paper.


This paper is available on line.


Zipf’s Law is a simple power law holding that the number of cities with population greater than N is proportionate to 1/N, this results in a log-linear relation between city population and city size rank (p.2). However, as shown by pre-modern European urban history, this law is not universal nor a-temporal (p.3). This outlying is very significant since economists have recognized that “there is an optimal level of urban concentration and that both over- and under- concentration can be very costly in terms of productivity growth” (p.4). When respecting the Zipf’s Law, city growth is considered random, so what prevented “normal” urban expansion and what later on made it possible? Read the rest of this entry »

Mitchener K. and Ohnuki M. (2009) Capital integration in Japan

March 15, 2009

Mitchener, Kris James and Ohnuki, Mari (2009) “Institutions, competition and capital market integration in Japan”, The Journal of Economic History, 69/1, 138-171.



The causal relationship between finance and economic growth makes “understanding the factors that encourage capital market development […] a key question” (p.138). Meiji-era policy-maker recognized that “the geographical mobility of capital [was] critical to allocative efficiency” and that to modernize the economy they had to forge an integrated capital market (p.139). Read the rest of this entry »

Gelderblom O. (2005) The decline of fairs and merchant guilds

March 13, 2009

Gelderblom, Oscar (2005) “The decline of Fairs and Merchant Guilds in the Low Countries, 1250-1650″, Economy and Society in the Low Countries before 1850, Working Paper 1, 47p.


This article is available on line

Between the 11th and 13th century, during the Commercial Revolution, long-distance trade in Europe expanded rapidly thanks to organizational improvements such as fairs and merchant guilds (p.1). In fairs, merchants increased their chance to find business partners and benefited from the protection and the contract-enforcement abilities of the local jurisdictions. Merchant guilds were associations of traders from the same origin present in a foreign market and united in order to increase their bargain power with local authorities (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »