North D.C. (1959) Agriculture and economic growth

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 »

Kanazawa S. (2004) The Savannah Principle

February 15, 2009

Kanazawa, Satoshi (2004) “The Savanna Principle”, Managerial and Decision Economics, 25/1, 41-54.



Models designed and used by microeconomists commonly fail to predict actual human behaviours (p.41). The author proposes to use Evolutionary Psychology (EP) to overcome these shortfalls. Unlike Evolutionary Economics which deals mostly with the evolution of strategies and organizations, EP uses the substance of Darwinism, instead of merely mimicking its principles. Read the rest of this entry »

The Obama Presidency and Economic History

January 20, 2009

A Commentary written by Rich Marino

As an American living in London, I’m watching and listening to all the hoopla and fanfare of the oncoming presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on a television set inside the foyer of a London library.

Clearly, America has demonstrated to the world that it has come a very long way in terms of race relations, but the reality of it all won’t be when the President-Elect raises his hand and is sworn in by the Chief Justice, and it won’t be at all the gala events and dinners that he and his lovely wife, Michelle will attend. No, reality will set in the first time President Obama walks into the Oval Office and he closes his door behind him and no one else is in the room, and at that point, he will realize first hand the enormity of the task facing his Administration. Read the rest of this entry »

Galley C. (1995) Were cities meat grainers or not?

January 8, 2009

Galley Chris (1995) “A Model of Early Modern Urban Demography”, Economic History Review, 48/3, 448-469.


As early as 1662, researchers realized that there were an abnormally high number of death in cities relatively to the number of birth (p.448), great cities were deemed ‘the graves of mankind’. The negative natural growth was compensated by rural immigration and the cities played the role of sinks of their neighboring region’s demographic surpluses.

Sharlin (1978) proposed another interpretation: those migrants were predominantly poor and single and increased the mortality rate without affecting noticeably fertility. Thus, the permanent residents did not suffer a negative natural growth, the extra death were merely provided by the migrants. But this theory was soon dismissed by Finlay, although no further theory was advanced for lack of data (p.449). Read the rest of this entry »

Epstein S. R. (2008) Craft guilds in the pre-modern economy

June 29, 2008

Epstein Stephen. R. (2008) “Craft guilds in the pre-modern economy: a discussion”, The Economic History Review, 61/1, 155-174.

This article of Larry Epstein is a discussion of Sheilagh Ogilvie’s article published by the review in 2004. In turn, Sheilagh Ogilve is offered to answer to professor Epstein’s comments. The result is a dynamic presentation of the current state of the research by two brilliant and passionate academics. Read the rest of this entry »

Grantham G. W. (1997) The impact of pre-industrial cities on agrarian productivity

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 »

Van Zanden J. L. (2002) The revolt of the early modernists and the first modern economy

May 18, 2008

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2002) “The ‘revolt of the early modernists’ and the ‘first modern economy’: an assessment”, Economic History Review, 55/4, 619-641.


The vision the historians (Abel, Le Roy Ladurie) of the 1950-60s had of the early modern European economy was particularly pessimistic. They emphasized increase of poverty and production ceilings. In their view this agrarian stagnation was abruptly ended by the Industrial Revolution (I.R.). Later the consensus shifted toward a more gradual improvement of productivity and the very term ‘revolution’ was kept only out of convenience (Craft) (p.619). Developments such as international trade, proto-industry, enhanced agricultural productivity were seen as necessary for the structural changes of the 19th century to take place. De Vries branded this revisionist pattern the ‘revolt of the early modernists’ (Persson). Read the rest of this entry »

Goldstone J. A. (1998) The Problem of the ‘Early Modern’ World’

May 4, 2008

Goldstone Jack A. (1998) “The Problem of the ‘Early Modern’ World”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 41/3, 249-284.


Goldstone proposes here his elegant “own interpretation with minimal defence”(271) of what was the pre-modern world and what brought the modern one. Was there such a thing as an “early modern” period for each nation and the world in general? Goldstone argues, this period was neither “modern” nor “early”. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Delong’s morning coffee: why study economic history?

March 31, 2008

It goes without saying but it goes so much better when you say it so intelligently.

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 »

Ogilvie S. (2007) Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe

September 30, 2007

I’ll start my blog by a summary of a brilliant article published in an excellent review. For almost two decades now, economic historians have been toying with the concept of institutions. Everything has been said about it, and more often than not it led nowhere. This article is not revolutionary nor does it open a brand new field or create a new debate. On the contrary, this article ends a debate – for a while at least; and that is every bit as important.

OGILVIE Sheilagh (2007) “‘Whatever is, is right’? Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe”, Economic Histroy Review, 60/4, 649-684.

Le serment du jeu de Paume

Introduction: De gustibus non est disputantum

Before the introduction of the concept of institutions, economic history was chiefly concerned with the natural endowment of a given region and the technological advancement of a given time. Anything else was considered to depends on preferences which were deemed stable, exogenous and not really worth debating (649). But gradually man-made rules (be it political or social) appeared to be too important to be ignored. These ‘humanely devised constraints’ became the new craze in economic history (650). Read the rest of this entry »