Andrei Markevich, 09 March 2019

Prior to World War I, many authorities believed that countries with substantial agrarian sectors and grain exports, including the Russian Empire, could overcome war hardships more easily than those countries that imported grain. This column asks why the experts got it wrong in the case of Russia, and concludes that the economics and politics of the Russian grain and labour markets provide the answer. It was impossible simultaneously to mobilise 15 million males into the Russian army, procure the grain to feed them as soldiers, and avoid revolution. 

Michael Anson, Norma Cohen, Alastair Owens, Dan Todman, 04 December 2018

Stephen Broadberry, Mark Harrison, 06 November 2018

November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. This column introduces a new VoxEU eBook which takes the opportunity to reflect on recent work that provides a reassessment of the role of economics in the war.

Giovanni Federico, Antonio Tena-Junguito, 07 February 2016

Parallels are often drawn between the Great Recession of the past decade and the economic turmoil of the interwar period. In terms of global trade, these comparisons are based on obsolete and incomplete data. This column re-estimates world trade since the beginning of the 19th century using a new database. The effect of the Great Recession on trade growth is sizeable but fairly small compared with the joint effect of the two world wars and the Great Depression. However, the effects will become more and more comparable if the current trade stagnation continues.

Hugh Rockoff, 04 October 2014

World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.

Avner Offer, 19 September 2014

Victory in World War I relied on three types of energy: renewable energy for food and fodder, fossil energy, and high explosive. This column argues that the Allies had a clear advantage in manpower, coal, and agriculture, but not enough for a quick decision. Mobilisation in continental economies curtailed food production, occasionally to a critical level. Technical competition was a matter of capacity for innovation, not of particular breakthroughs. Coercive military service and rationing of scarce energy and food had egalitarian consequences that continued after the war.

Nicholas Crafts, 27 August 2014

It is well-known that World War I was expensive for Britain.  The indirect economic costs were also huge.  This column argues that the adverse implications of the Great War for post-war unemployment and trade – together with the legacy of a greatly increased national debt – significantly reduced the level of real GDP throughout the 1920s.  A ballpark calculation suggests the loss of GDP during this period roughly doubled the total costs of the war to Britain.

Timothy Hatton, 09 May 2014

The height of today’s populations cannot explain which factors matter for long-run trends in health and height. This column highlights the correlates of height in the past using a sample of British army soldiers from World War I. While the socioeconomic status of the household mattered, the local disease environment mattered even more. Better education and modest medical advances led to an improvement in average health, despite the war and depression.


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