Economic history

Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, 18 March 2019

Many associate Brexit and the Trumpian trade wars with the start of a new phase of deglobalisation. This column argues that we should view them as symptoms rather than causes, as the world had already started to fundamentally change before either came on the horizon. Neither the delay to Brexit nor the extended pause in the US–China tariff war means that the risks of deglobalisation have diminished.

Sebastian Doerr, José-Luis Peydró, Hans-Joachim Voth, 15 March 2019

Polarised politics in the wake of financial crises echo throughout modern history, but evidence of a causal link between economic downturns and populism is limited. This column shows that financial crisis-induced misery boosted far right-wing voting in interwar Germany. In towns and cities where many firms were exposed to failing banks, Nazi votes surged. In particular, places exposed to the one bank led by a Jewish chairman registered particularly strong increases of support – scapegoating Jews was easier with seemingly damning evidence of their negative influence.  

Sanjiv Das, Kris Mitchener, Angela Vossmeyer, 11 March 2019

The Global Crisis brought attention to how connections among financial institutions may make systems more prone to crises. Turning to a major financial crisis from the past, this column uses data from the Great Depression to study risk in the commercial banking network leading up to the crisis and how the network structure influenced the outcomes. It demonstrates that when the distribution of risk is more concentrated at the top of the system, as it was in 1929, fragility and the propensity for risk to spread increases.

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. 

Neil Cummins, 24 February 2019

Within countries, the driving force behind the 20th century’s dramatic drop in inequality were the declines in the wealth shares of the top 1%. Based on 60 million death and probate records covering a period of 100 years, this column argues that in the case of Britain the distributional gains from the Great Equalisation were exclusively confined to the top 30% of the wealth distribution. This left the nation’s social and political fabric vulnerable to the protest vote of many in 2016 to leave the EU, following the austerity induced by the financial crisis.

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