Economic history

Roberto Bonfatti, Kevin O'Rourke, 26 May 2017

Classical models suggest that shifts in the balance of power can lead to conflict, where the established power has the incentive to trigger war to deter the threat to its dominance. This column argues that this changes if international trade is taken into account. Industrialisation requires the import of natural resources, potentially leading a smaller nation to trigger war either against a resource-rich country or the incumbent nation. The model can help explain the US-Japanese conflict of 1941 and Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and has implications for US-Chinese relations today.

Ricardo Fernholz, Kris Mitchener, Marc Weidenmier, 18 May 2017

There has been speculation that the dollar may soon be displaced by the euro or renminbi as the primary international currency. This column examines the demise of silver-based monetary standards in the 19th century to explore price dynamics when a money ceases to function as a global unit of account. According to new data on the historical prices of agricultural commodities, silver ceased functioning as a global price anchor in the mid-1890s. Over the same period, the volatility of agricultural commodity prices also declined.

Sandra Sequeira, Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian, 17 May 2017

Recent empirical studies of the effects of immigration have tended to focus on short-run outcomes. This column considers the longer run by examining how mass migration at the turn of the 20th century has affected US outcomes today. Higher historical immigration between 1860 and 1920 is found to result in significantly better social and economic outcomes today. The results suggest that the long-run benefits of immigration can be large, can persist across time, and need not come at a high social cost.

Rui Luo, 14 May 2017

While the impact of modern technological change on the skill premium has been well explained, there has been no study of the evolution of the skill premium over the very long run. This column reveals that the skill premium in Western Europe declined between 1300 and 1600, and converged to a low and stable level afterwards. Growth and technological change, while stimulating economic development and the transition from a pre-modern era to modern era, reduced wage inequality between different working groups.

Catherine Casson, Mark Casson, John Lee, Katie Phillips, 07 May 2017

Contemporary businesses are frequently challenged to invest the profits from their commercial successes into projects that benefit society. Yet this is not a new concept – this column reports that it began as early as the medieval period. Profits from property speculation in the Middle Ages were re-invested into local communities. Compassionate capitalism involved high levels of charitable giving to hospitals, monasteries, churches, and colleges, which helped to disseminate the economic benefits of investments from individuals to the wider community. 

Other Recent Articles:

Events