Kim S. (2006) Division of labour and the rise of cities

December 28, 2008

Kim Sukkoo [2006] “Division of labor and the rise of cities: evidence from US industrialization, 1850-1880”, Journal of Economic Geography, 6/3, 469-491.

“In the USA, the Industrial Revolution occurred in two distinct phases between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Between 1820 and 1840, early industrialization began in New England as manufacturing re-organized from artisanal shops to non-mechanized factories in a relatively small number of industries such as textile, leather, and shoes. In the second phase of industrialisation, which occurred between 1850 and 1920, factory production rose in scale, became mechanized, and spread to numerous industries and to the North-eastern region known as the manufacturing belt” (p.469). Read the rest of this entry »

Grantham G. (1999) Contra Ricardo: unexpected growth

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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O’Rourke K. and Williamson J. (2006) Did Vasco da Gama matter for European markets?

August 10, 2008

O’Rourke Kevin H. and Williamson Jeffrey G. (2006) “Did Vasco da Gama matter for European markets? Testing Frederick Lanes hypotheses fifty years later”, IIIS Discussion Paper, 118, 53p.

This paper is available on line.

Summary: In this article, the authors argue against F. C. Lanes’ traditional thesis which considered that the Portuguese discoveries had little long-lasting effect on the European spices markets. They show that the Portuguese route did decrease the spices prices in 16th-century Europe. Moreover they contributed to the creation of an integrated European market for luxury goods that did not exist before 1500. They conclude by saying that the European consumers were ultimately the main beneficiaries ofda Gama’s voyage. Read the rest of this entry »

Abelor G. (1973) The great alteration of the French roads in the 18th century

April 20, 2008

Arbellot Guy (1973) “La grande mutation des routes de France au XVIIIe siècle”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 28/3. 765-791.

This article is available on line.


When Louis XIV died (1715), the roads of the kingdom he was leaving to his successor were in a dreadful state. This was a major bottleneck for the growing economic and administrative activities. The controleur général (finance secretary) Orry and the intendant Trudaine decided to repair the old roads and build new ones where carts and coaches could travel fast. Read the rest of this entry »

Epstein S. R. (2000) The late medieval integration crisis

April 6, 2008

Epstein Stephen R. (2000) “The late medieval crisis as “integration crisis’” in idem Freedom and Growth. The rise of states and markets in Europe, 1300-1750, New York/London: Routledge/LSE, 38-72.


The post-war historians thought ‘traditional societies’ did not experienced growth in per caput income due to the lack of technological innovation. But recent research has shown they could be much more productive then formerly thought, so pre-modern societies operated well below their potential: technology was not a fundamental constraint. In agriculture, only a handful of regions were reaching their technological frontier: Essex, Flanders, Lombardy, etc. Elsewhere, the bulk of the medieval innovations was still to be introduced (38). Commercial progress also allowed specialisation to take place, but warfare regularly reversed these improvements (39). Read the rest of this entry »

Kelly M. (1997) The dynamics of Smithian growth

February 24, 2008

KELLY Morgan (1997) “The Dynamics of Smithian Growth”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112/3, 939-964.

Smithian progress (i.e. the understanding that specialization causes output to rise first articulated by Adam Smith) is neglected by economists because it is perceived as gradual (unlike the sudden growth caused by innovation, learning by doing and private capital accumulation). But the author dismisses the idea that Smithian growth is necessarily gradual. Read the rest of this entry »

Britnell R. H. (2001) Specialization in England, 1100-1300

January 27, 2008

Britnell Richard H. (2001) “Specialization of work in England, 1100-1300”, Economic History Review, 54/1, 1-16.


The 12th and 13th centuries experienced growing population. The more people, the more likely it is that some will become specialized in an activity where they enjoy a comparative advantage (see Adam Smith). Persson has estimated that this led to a 0.1 to 0.25 yearly increase of productivity per caput in England over two centuries (i.e. between 22 and 62% for the whole period). But to what extend the period’s productivity gains are attributable to specialization? Read the rest of this entry »