Economic history

Stefano Gagliarducci, Massimiliano Onorato, Francesco Sobbrio, Guido Tabellini, 22 April 2018

During WWII the BBC was actively engaged in fostering opposition to the German occupation throughout Europe. This column uses data on variations in radio signal strength during the war to analyse the role played by the BBC’s “Radio Londra” programme in civilian and partisan resistance against the Nazi-fascist regime. The findings suggest that BBC radio played a significant role in coordinating resistance activities against foreign occupation, but only a minor role in mobilising the civilian population against the fascist regime.

Michael Bordo, Eric Monnet, Alain Naef, 18 April 2018

Central bank cooperation has once again become a central issue amid the Global Crisis and the persistence of global imbalances, but there are few examples of successful cooperation schemes that survived the test of time. This column argues that the Gold Pool of 1961-1968 offers a unique example of integrated financial cooperation between major central banks. It failed not due to members freeriding, but because they did not have to abide by any rules-based policies to prevent imbalances.

Claudia Steinwender, 11 April 2018

Flows of information, though critical for the efficient functioning of markets, are often limited in reality, potentially distorting trade flows and price patterns. This column uses the transatlantic telegraph connection of 1866 to explore how changes in information frictions affected cotton markets in the US and UK. The results show that information frictions decrease average trade flows and the volatility of trade, leading to substantial welfare losses.

Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Nicolai Kaarsen, Ola Olsson, Pablo Selaya, 09 April 2018

Although spatial differences in economic development tend to be highly persistent over time, this is not always the case. This column combines novel data on Roman Empire road networks with data on night-time light intensity to explore the persistence and non-persistence of a key proximate source of growth – public goods provision. Several empirical strategies all point to the Roman road network as playing an important role in the persistence of subsequent development.

Rui Esteves, Gabriel Geisler Mesevage, 06 April 2018

The social costs of corruption in government have made policies to reduce it a priority. This column uses the example of the expansion of the British rail network in the 1840s to show that conflict-of-interest rules and transparency requirements are insufficient to prevent corruption. Faced with a major administrative reform to insulate the provision of public infrastructure from private interests, MPs traded votes to ensure their interests prevailed.

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