Mark Koyama, 16 October 2020

Seven hundred years ago the worst pandemic in history killed almost half the population of Europe and the Middle East. Mark Koyama tells Tim Phillips about the centuries-long economic impact of the Black Death.

Guido Alfani, 15 October 2020

The relationship between pandemics and inequality is of significant interest at the moment. The Black Death in the 14th century is one salient example of a pandemic which dramatically decreased wealth inequality, but this column argues that the Black Death is exceptional in this respect. Pandemics in subsequent centuries have failed to significantly reduce inequality, due to different institutional environments and labour market effects. This evidence suggests that inequality and poverty are likely to increase in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

Rémi Jedwab, Noel Johnson, Mark Koyama, 03 May 2020

The Black Death was accompanied by violence against Europe's Jewish communities. But not all Jewish communities were persecuted. This column outlines two countervailing effects that can help explain this variation: a scapegoating effect – as the disease worsened, there was an incentive to blame the outgroup – and a complementarities effect – Jews performed important roles in the medieval economy and these services became more valuable in the wake of the plague. Together, these effects shed light on the conditions under which prejudice and violence against minorities can be exacerbated or limited.

Rémi Jedwab, Noel Johnson, Mark Koyama, 08 May 2019

The Black Death killed 40% of Europe’s population between 1347 and 1352, but little is known about its spatial effects. The column uses variation in Plague mortality at the city level to explore the short-run and long-run impacts on city growth. After less than 200 years the impact of Black Death mortality in cities was close to zero, but the rate of urban recovery depended on advantages that favoured trade.

Peter Temin, 04 June 2014

Increasing the interaction between economic history and development could benefit both subfields. This column points how some recent insights from economic history can be relevant for development. The Black Death led to an improvement in agricultural technology, changed the status of women, and increased wages. This process helped the Industrial Revolution, but the technology boom was not profitable in low-income countries. These findings suggest an underlying problem of development could be the demographic patterns that keep wages low.

Stephen Broadberry, 16 November 2013

The economic divergence we observe today was existent even a thousand years ago. Thanks to recent work on historical data, we can now trace the economic development of different countries centuries back in the past. This column discusses the roots of the Great Divergence between European and Asian economies. The column argues that divergence is due to the differential impact of shocks that hit economies with different structural features.


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