Economic History Research Paper

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1. The Pioneer Period (1776–1914)

It is never easy to track the birthday of an intellectual discipline. Like many children of Clio, economic history was taking shape even before it was born. Politicians, literary men, philosophers, theologians, artists, and scientists have always used economic phenomena of the past to illustrate or elucidate their theories on private property, unequal distribution of wealth, interest and usury, the labor theory of value, and the just price. Merchants, lawyers, businessmen, and other ‘practitioners’ (as Paul Samuelson labeled these authors) in their writings frequently turned to the past, searching for similar experiences or comparative data that could be applied in their daily work. Later, the rapid growth of international commerce and the rise of powerful merchant states after the Middle Ages inspired the leading writers of the Mercantilist Era to develop some ideas on the history of trade, the balance of trade, monetary flows, exchange rates, and state intervention. Carlo M. Cipolla has quite rightly observed that if economics was preceded by ‘protoeconomics’ (the so-called political arithmetics of the seventeenth century), then the works of many mercantilist authors constitute a kind of ‘protoeconomic history.’

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Adam Smith (1723–1790) was the first modern scholar to use economic history as a tool of economic analysis. In his famous book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) he described and analyzed the working of Mercantilism in its historical perspective in order to criticize it and to propose a better, more efficient system, the free market system. Smith preferred inductive reasoning and there- fore saw economic history as a kind of laboratory in which he could test his theoretical assertions. His work laid the foundations for classical economics. The most eminent representatives of this tradition, however, did not follow the path of the founding father and deprived the newborn theoretical economics of its historical dimension. David Ricardo (1772–1823), James Mill (1773–1836) and William Stanley Jevons (1835–1882) developed economics into an analytical instrument, based on mathematical abstraction and logical theory. Ricardo, whose works ironically would inspire so many economic historians, liked to present his ideas as abstract mechanisms without referring to historical events or even existing institutions. Most classical economists remained interested in institutional economics but concentrated their scholarly efforts more exclusively on constructing economic laws and concepts to explain the working of the market, leaving economic history aside. Notable exceptions, such as Alfred Marshall (1842–1924), used economic history rather in an eclectic way, presenting institutional structures and developments as clarifying illustrations of their theoretical analyses. As a result, by 1900 economists elaborated elegant and symmetric models of general equilibrium in which the historical presence of time was completely lacking.

From the 1840s onwards, a German Historical School emerged, reacting systematically against the deductive theoretical approach of the English classical economists by emphasizing that the inductive method, based upon economic history, should be the starting point of all theoretical reasoning. As the German economists were also interested, as were the English, in institutional economics, but, in contrast to the latter, wanted to add a specific historical dimension to it, they focused their research on describing and explaining the changes over time of institutions and systems. Inspired by their historical research they constructed theories of economic development in stages (the so-called ‘Stufen’ theories). Friedrich List (1789–1846) was a pioneer in this respect, subdividing the historical development of production into four subsequent stages of dominant economic activity: the stage of hunting and collecting, the agricultural stage, the agricultural–manufacturing stage, and, finally, the agricultural–manufacturing–trading stage. During the second half of the nineteenth century, his colleagues and followers, such as Bruno Hildebrand (1812–1878), Wilhelm Roscher (1817–1894), Karl Knies (1821– 1898), Karl Bucher (1847–1930) and Gustav von Schmoller (1838–1917), elaborated the ‘Stufen’ idea still further. They introduced other ‘economic criteria’ as determining variables in the process of development, for example the way of exchanging goods (barter, money, and credit) or the distance between producer and consumer (closed domestic economy, city economy, national economy, and world economy).

The younger members of the German Historical School, active at the end of the century and at the beginning of the twentieth, remained faithful to the ‘Stufen’ hypothesis but widened the scope of their research. Werner Sombart (1863–1941), for example, added social and cultural variables to the economic ones, characterizing the stages more broadly as ‘precapitalism,’ ‘early-capitalism,’ ‘high-capitalism,’ ‘latecapitalism,’ and ‘socialism.’ Max Weber (1864–1920), being a sociologist as well as an economist, deepened his analysis by focusing on the links between Protestantism and the rise of capitalism in early modern Europe. Karl Marx (1818–1883), finally, combined the German Historical School’s approach with the analytical methods of the classical economists when analyzing the transitions from a primitive society to economies based on slavery, later, on feudalism, which then evolved into capitalism, and from there would lead to socialism–communism.

Many young historians from neighboring countries, completing their studies in Germany, were fascinated by the themes of the German Historical School and integrated them into their own research. The Belgian historian Henri Pirenne (1862–1935), for example, would analyze in depth the institutional development of industrial and commercial capitalism in Flanders and Brabant during the late medieval period. In Germany these scholars, who in their countries would soon hold university chairs themselves and have students of their own, became attracted by the study of economic phenomena in the past. They were also profoundly influenced by the new methodology that in the second half of the nineteenth century had found acceptance in the history departments of many German universities. This new methodology was the famous ‘seminar’ system that Leopold von Ranke had successfully introduced at the University of Berlin in 1833. Within these seminars, students had a direct contact with primary sources. Students were trained to solve problems of identification and interpretation by combining the techniques of a rapidly increasing variety of auxiliary sciences (paleography, chronology, numismatics, metrology, etc.) with the fine skills of internal and external source criticism. With the integration of this rigorous methodology, the economic historian started to distinguish himself from mainstream economists who showed less concern with the collection, use, and general validity of the data.

By studying economic–historical development in such a systematic way, the members and imitators of the German Historical School became, de facto, the founding fathers of economic history. Although the scholars contributed little to the further development of economic theory, their historical approach would remain influential during the whole twentieth century. Several economists of the twentieth century, in particular those studying modern economic development, such as Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950), Arthur Lewis (1915–1990), and Walt W. Rostow (1916), were inspired by the ideas and methods of the School when elaborating their own theories.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, an English Historical School had also emerged, reacting in its turn against the too abstract approach of the classical economists. A first group of English scholars, under the influence of Positivism, became interested in historical statistics, proclaiming that serial history was a necessary tool for verifying or falsifying abstract economic theories and laws. At the middle of the century, Thomas Tooke (1774–1858) with his History of Prices had already paved the way, but it was James E. Thorold Rogers (1823–1890), publishing a large-scale history of agricultural prices in England between 1866 and 1902, who became the real pioneer of the group. A second group studied economic development in a historical perspective, similar to what the Germans had already done and were still doing. However, the English, as could be expected, were focusing in the first place on their own national experience. Arnold Toynbee (1852–1883), for example, studied the English Industrial Revolution and William J. Ashley (1860–1927), in the same vein, decided to undertake a survey of the whole English economic past. John H. Clapham (1873–1946), on the contrary, compared the development of France and Germany during the nineteenth century and also wrote a masterly survey of the economic history of Britain. Some American scholars can be considered belonging to the same group, because of their interest in economic institutions and their evolution over time: Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), for example, focused on American capitalism during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The success of the German and the English Historical Schools was undoubtedly the most important but by no means the only factor that explained the promotion of economic history as an independent discipline within the historical sciences. Two other causes should be mentioned as well. First, the spread of Marxism, which became more and more influential among intellectuals and in academic circles, also favored the interest in economic history. The conviction that the production of goods and services determined political, social, cultural, and spiritual processes stimulated scholars to study themes such as the means of production, the relationships between social groups, landed property, the distribution of income and wealth, the evolution of wages, labor conditions, and other related topics. A second factor that certainly contributed to the development of the new discipline was the industrial revolution and the subsequent industrialization of great parts of the European continent in the second half of the nineteenth century. The new production methods, new techniques and, above all, the impressive economic growth in many countries created a favorable intellectual climate to study in a systematic manner the context and the conditions in which the new economic phenomena took shape.

Before World War I, economic history had developed into a healthy and respected discipline that confirmed its new status with an increasing number of students and with specific journals, university chairs and congresses. Of course, there were marked national differences. In Germany, hardly a surprise considering the importance of the Historical School in this country, a course on ‘Wirtschaftsgeschichte’ (economic history) was already announced at Heidelberg University in 1853, but never took place. The famous London School of Economics organized lectures on economic history right from the outset (1895), but the first university chair in the world would be installed in the United States. This happened at Harvard University where W. J. Ashley (1860–1927), a fellow of Oxford, accepted this position in 1892. The first chair for economic history in Britain was established at Manchester in 1910 and held by George Unwin (1870– 1925). In the Netherlands, N. W. Posthumus (1880– 1963) occupied the first chair of economic history, at Rotterdam, in 1913. The chair of economic history at the Sorbonne was created in 1927 and given to Henri Hauser (1866–1946). Meanwhile, economic history already had its first journals. Again, Germany was the first country with a specific journal entirely devoted to economic and social history: this was the Vierteljahrschrift fur Sozialund Wirtschaftsgeschichte with its first issue in 1903. France followed with the Re ue d’histoire economique et sociale in 1908. The famous Annales d’histoire economique et sociale that would strongly promote research in economic history only dates from 1929 and was therefore preceded by a.o. the Economic History Review (UK, 1927) and the Journal of Economic and Business History (USA, 1928). Except for the Italian Rivista di Storia Economica (1936) and the American Journal of Economic History (1941), all major journals date from the postwar period.

2. Between The Wars

In the inter-bellum period, economic history would expand further. However, it shifted its focus, towards economic problems arising from the war, such as war and postwar inflation, or towards problems becoming critical during the thirties, such as the chaos resulting from the world crisis. In the view of economic historians, the use of historical statistics could help substantially in deepening the analysis in both cases. An International Scientific Committee for Price History was created in 1931, on the initiative of Edwin F. Gay (Ashley’s successor in 1902) and William H. Beveridge (1879–1963), to set in hand price studies in England, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the United States, Spain, and Poland. From 1934 onwards, several price studies concerning these countries were published. After World War II the Committee would not be active any more, but publications of historical price series still multiplied, not only in the countries mentioned above, but also in Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Italy, and many other countries.

In France, the construction of long-term price series aimed originally at verifying or falsifying quantitative monetary theory. Francois Simiand (1873–1935) was a pioneer in this respect, but he on extended his research to explore also the role of wages in the economy, basing it, once again, on historical statistics. Ernest Labrousse (1895–1989) took over Simiand’s legacy, orienting it, however, towards the analysis of cyclical fluctuations in Europe during the Ancien Regime. His student, Jean Meuvret (1901–1971), integrated demography into the cyclical analysis, as did the German economic historian Wilhelm Abel (1904–85), in his famous study on agricultural fluctuations in central Europe since the late Middle Ages (Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjunktur). Economists and economic historians, in particular in the AngloSaxon countries, were more interested in the study of the ‘modern’ business cycle. Scholars, such as Arthur F. Burns, W. C. Mitchell, Arthur D. Gayer, Joseph Schumpeter, Ernst Wagemann (with his Institut fur Konjunkturforschung at Kiel), Walt W. Rostow and many others, published quantitative historical surveys of the British, American, German, and other business cycles during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The tradition would be continued after the World War II by R. C. O. Matthews, Philip A. Klein, Robert A. Gordon, and Erik Lundberg, among others.

Apart from the creation of the International Committee on Price History, two other important innovative initiatives were taken during the inter-bellum period, which, as was also the case with the history of prices, would continue to influence postwar economic historiography substantially. First to be mentioned is the ambitious project of publishing a multi-volume Cambridge Economic History of Europe, written by a large, international team of qualified scholars. The first volume appeared in 1941 and was followed by many others. The creation in 1929 of the French journal Annales d’histoire economique et sociale by Marc Bloch (1886–1944) and Lucien Febvre (1878– 1956) was a second important event. The two founders had the ambition to encourage a new kind of social and economic history, focusing on daily material life, and to make this kind of history truly interdisciplinary by integrating the social sciences. In its first years, the Annales remained faithful to the quantitative-historical Simiand–Labrousse tradition, its themes of research being very diversified. Outside of France, the impact was still minimal. Gradually the journal moved more systematically in the direction of historical anthropology and global history in which the qualitative approach was gaining ground. When Fernand Braudel (1902–1985) took over control of the journal in the early 1950s, the Braudelian vision of a qualitative ‘new global history’ became the predominant idea of the Annales School. Its impact on European economic history now grew quickly, and with some time lag, the influence could also be felt in England, and in the United States as well.

3. The Heyday (1950–1980)

No doubt, the pre-war initiatives, mentioned above, were crucial for the postwar expansion of economic history to become one of the main disciplines of the economic and historical sciences, but several new initiatives taken after World War II by economists and economic historians alike were as decisive. During the immediate postwar decades, the Anglo-Saxons clearly dominated the scene of innovation. Keynesianism became the great fashion in economics, but it was soon complemented by theories of economic growth. The more dynamic approach of the growth theories stimulated the interest of the American economists, such as Moses Abramovitz and Colin Clark, in long-term economic-historical development. In 1950, during the Paris world conference of historical sciences, Clark incited the economic historians to join the economists in taking up research on long-term economic growth. The appeal was heard. At the end of the 1950s, the American Economic History Association and the National Bureau of Economic Research were joining efforts in studying the evolution of income and wealth in the United States during the nineteenth century. During the first international economic history conference in Stockholm in 1960, themes on industrialization, human capital, and technology as factors of economic growth became predominant in the modern history sessions. Based on historical experience, concepts and theories on the ‘take-off’ (Walt W. Rostow), on the ‘great spurt’ (Alexander Gerschenkron), and on capital formation and capital utilization (Evsey Domar) were formulated.

Soon the scope of the discussions widened, leading, inter alia, the following new questions.

(a) Had planned economies a comparative advantage or disadvantage vis-a-vis the free-market economies in promoting economic growth?

(b) How to explain regional growth disparities in the West from a historical point of view?

(c) How to explain uneven economic development in the world?

(d) Finally, how to specify the links between growth and income?

The last question would be analyzed in depth by Nobel Prize winner, Simon Kuznets (1901–1985), who started to use reconstructed historical series of national accounts for that purpose, emphasizing that economic growth could only be studied scientifically if it was based on trustworthy macroeconomic statistics. Kuznets’ appeal would generate a large-scale research movement of reconstructing national accounts. Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole’s successful book British Economic Growth, 1688–1959, first published in 1962, used such statistics, and encouraged the movement still further. Scholars in the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzer-land, Sweden, Finland, and Portugal were launching projects to reconstruct historical national accounts of their own countries. In the United Kingdom, Charles Feinstein, Nicholas F. R. Crafts and others soon would start working on correcting and improving the estimates of Deane and Cole. Research on the links between growth and income, on the other hand, increased interest in the social aspects of growth and development. Marxist and non-Marxist economic historians in the following years would expand this field of research very much, emphasizing the importance of socio-institutional factors in the process of growth and development.

As far as the economic history of the Ancien Regime was concerned, the influence of Michael M. Postan (1899–1981) was prominent during the immediate postwar years. His long-term Malthusian demographical approach would become a model of interpretation for European economic development during the Middle Ages as well as during the early modern period. The Postan model would lead to the creation of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure under the directorship of Edward A. Wrigley, Roger S. Schofield and Peter Laslett. The French would join the English Malthusian demographical approach, although Michel Fleury, Louis Henry, Jean Meuvret and Pierre Goubert analyzed short and medium-term demographical fluctuations in particular. For that purpose, Fleury and Henry would introduce the prosopographical method into historical demography and develop a method for family reconstitution based on the information in the parish registers. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, on his part, would integrate, somewhat later, Postan’s long-term model into his own research on French and European agricultural history in the early modern period.

During the same period the Annales School, now firmly dominated by Fernand Braudel, was extending its influence via the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes de la Sorbonne, not only among the French economic historians, but also in the whole of Europe and soon beyond. From the late 1950s onwards until the early 1980s, the School would inspire a large part of economic historical research on:

(a) The late Middle Ages (for example Georges Duby and Jacques Le Goff ).

(b) The early modern times (for example Pierre Jeannin, Jean-Francois Bergier, Pierre Deyon, Bernard H. Slicher van Bath, Jerzy Topolski, Pierre Chaunu, Felipe Ruiz Martin and Herman Van der Wee).

(c) The French Revolution period (for example Francois Furet and Denis Richet).

Originally, research was often focused on geo- graphical studies of economic development, following the example of Braudel’s pioneering study on the Mediterranean, but, in contrast to Braudel, most of these studies combined qualitative approach with quantitative analysis. Gradually, the qualitative ‘global history’ approach became predominant. Within this framework, under the influence of Marxist economic historians such as Immanuel Wallerstein, the socio-institutional aspects were getting increasingly more attention in the analysis of the agricultural, commercial, industrial, and financial development of Europe during the Ancien Regime.

While the methodological trend in the Annales School from the 1950s onwards was moving in the direction of a more qualitative approach to economic history, in the United States the trend during that period moved clearly in the opposite direction. In 1954, at Purdue University in Lafayette (Indiana), economists and economic historians already used primitive computers for the processing of statistical data. Three years later, during a conference of the American Economic History Association in 1957, Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer launched the idea of a ‘New Economic History,’ aiming at integrating economic theory, quantitative methods, and history into one discipline. They illustrated the relevance of their idea by applying a microeconomic input– output method when analyzing the profitability of slavery in the American South during the nineteenth century. Nobel Prize winner Robert Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman later took up the theme. This led to a large-scale research project, its conclusions being published in Time on the Cross, 1974.

Some young economic historians received Conrad and Meijer’s idea with enthusiasm. It gave birth to ‘Cliometrics,’ soon a well-established subdiscipline of American economic history. In the early 1960s, Robert P. Thomas had already applied the cost–benefit analysis method to explore the effects of the British Navigation Laws on the economy of the American colonies. More spectacular was the research undertaken by Robert Fogel and Albert Fishlow on the contribution of the railroads to American economic growth. To measure their impact, Fogel constructed a hypothetical world and used a counterfactual proposition: what would have happened to an economy if, contrary to the facts, one or more important features of that economy had never existed? Or applied to his research: if a railway system had not been introduced in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century, could an alternative transport system, such as a system of existing and new canals, have generated as many social gains and dynamic effects as the railways did? The results of Fogel’s cliometric test were fascinating: the difference would have been minimal since the ‘social savings’ would have represented less than 5 percent of national income in 1890. The cliometricians, now organized in an autonomous association, the Cliometric Society, and holding their own yearly meetings, began revisiting all major themes of American economic history, hoping that their methodology would lead to a complete reinterpretation of that history. Major themes studied by the cliometricians were:

(a) the economic reconstruction of the South after the Secession War;

(b) the impact of labor and migration on American growth at the end of the nineteenth century (cf. the model of Jeffrey Williamson, applying macroeconomic equilibrium theories);

(c) money markets and banking systems as factors of growth in the United States in the nineteenth century;

(d) the American Industrial Revolution;

(e) the Great Depression of the 1880s;

(f ) the World Crisis of the 1930s; and

(g) the role of the residual factor in American productivity growth.

The methodological innovation, introduced by the American New Economic History, would spill over to the rest of the world, in particular to Canada, Australia, and some European countries, particularly the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden. Moreover, from 1970 onwards each world congress of the International Economic History Association would have a session on methodology, dominated from the beginning by the American cliometricians. However, the impact of the New Economic History outside the United States remained limited and certainly did not gain widespread recognition. F. Redlich, for example, described the counterfactual deduction in 1968 as ‘fictitious history’ and ‘not history at all.’ Was it because neoclassical theory was found to be less applicable to the European pre-industrial period than to the nineteenth-century American economy? Alternatively, were institutional factors, such as the separation between economists and economic historians who are normally active in the arts faculties, responsible for the emotional aversion towards the blend of history, economic theory, and econometrics? Even in the United States itself, dissidents soon emerged. Nobel Prize winner Douglass North, who had been applying the New Economic History methods in his studies on American growth, withdrew from cliometrics and reoriented his research to the institutional aspects of growth, using the historical experience to construct and verify his hypotheses. In his view, the protection of ‘property rights’ and the lowering of ‘transactions costs’ were the decisive factors in the history of economic growth. In the same vein as North’s New Institutional History, but more innovating and with a much larger impact in and outside the United States, was Alfred D. Chandler Jr’s founding of the ‘New Business History.’

When creating the Center of Entrepreneurial Studies at Harvard in the late 1930s, Joseph Schumpeter and Arthur Cole had hoped to replace the hagiographical tradition of prewar and interwar business history by a more scientific approach. However, it was Chandler who, from the 1960s onwards, realized that ambition fully with his books Strategy and Structure (1962), The Visible Hand (1977), Scale and Scope (1990) and Inventing the Electronic Century (2001). Careful historical investigation, combined with in-depth institutional economic analysis, revealed the crucial role of business management and business organization in the successful rise of American capitalism. This was soon completed by studies on the rise and development of European and Japanese capitalism. Chandler’s hypotheses and methodology became standard all over the world and are still so. Up to the present day, they are the main source of inspiration to the ‘New Business History.’ A last new economic history group, emerging after World War II, should be mentioned: the ‘New Urban History,’ integrating sociological, geographical, and economic theories and quantitative methods into the historical analysis of towns and urbanization. In 1962, an interdisciplinary Urban History Group was established, followed three years later by the ‘Commission Internationale pour l’histoire des villes’ directed by scholars such as Henri Aubin, Hektor Ammann, and Philippe Wolff. However, the Anglo-Saxon historians, once again, were pioneers in the field, H. J. Dyos, Jan de Vries, Paul M. Hohenberg, Lynn Hollen Lees, Peter Clark and many others.

Postwar economic history was also influenced by the social effects and economic problems generated by the spectacular expansion of the Western economy during the postwar period. Indeed, research was much inspired by the increasing number of publications, such as the report of the Club of Rome (1972), revealing the problems caused by economic growth, or by movements protesting against the negative effects of growth in the West, such as the activist policies, formulated by the UNCTAD in the course of the 1960s and 1970s. Responding to these reactions, new themes emerged in the programs of the world conferences of the International Association of Economic History. These included, from the 1970s onwards, in particular: ‘Natural Resources and Economic Development in History,’ ‘Oil in the World Economy,’ ‘Environment and Urbanization in History,’ ‘Ecological History,’ ‘The Economic History of Leisure and Recreation,’ ‘Typology of Colonial Economic Development,’ ‘The Economic History of the Third World,’ ‘Loans, Debts and Economic Development in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,’ inter alia. The Cold War and its ideological conflicts would lead to a number of studies comparing the efficiency of the two economic systems in an historical perspective.

4. Shifts And Changes (1980–2000)

From the 1980s onwards, new shifts occurred in the postwar development of economic history. The first important shift originated from two new circumstances: economic history, as an autonomous discipline, crossed its traditional European and North American borders and acquired strong positions also in many Latin American and Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, the African continent. Moreover, globalization of the world economy, from the 1980s onwards, clearly accelerated its pace. The effect of both factors on economic history was twofold. Firstly, seen in relative terms, research was re-orienting itself increasingly in the direction of contemporary history, at the expense of medieval and early modern history. Secondly, a geographical re-orientation took place: research on non-European topics, particularly concerning Asian and Latin American countries and again in relative terms, expanded remarkably.

Another important shift was thematic. Economic development was increasingly considered a part of a much more complex reality, in which mental, cultural, and socio-institutional variables were as crucial as the economic ones for understanding and explaining it. This changing view on the place of economic history in the scientific approach to reality generated many new fields of research. Themes such as ‘Ethnic Minority Groups and their Impact on Economic Development,’ ‘Guilds, Economy, and Society,’ ‘Women and the Practice of Credit,’ ‘Film: an Industry on the Cross-roads of Economics, Politics, and Arts,’ ‘Consumption, Lifestyle, and the Standard of Living,’ ‘Gender and Labor Migration,’ ‘Courts as Economic Institutions,’ etc., were very successful during the conferences.

A third important shift was the increasing interest of economic historians iicro-historical research: an interest in the experience of the individual (‘l’experi-ence vecue’), an interest in the uniqueness of historical events (‘das Einmalige’), an interest in the narrative and the descriptive at the expense of a more analytical history, and looking for recurrent patterns in historical development. Many economic historians preferred the meticulous approach of specific, atypical, idiosyncratic cases to broad but abstract theories or structural change analysis. Themes such as ‘Cities at War,’ ‘The Economy of Private Households,’ ‘Education and Career of Business Managers,’ ‘Potatoes and Famines in mid-nineteenth Century Europe,’ were significant for the rise of this kind of micro-history.

At the end of the twentieth century, economic history had expanded and diversified its research so much that it would be difficult to summarize its development in a nutshell. In a simplifying view, one could distinguish two main tendencies. A first one could be considered a modern version of the traditional socioeconomic historiography, presenting in a descriptive way the results of new research in the archives, particularly concerning aspects of daily life not yet studied much; for example, sexuality, criminality, discrimination against women, food, clothing, games, leisure, fashion, the environment, and domestic services. The second tendency, and by far the more important, aims at integrating elements of economic theory and methodology into historical analysis. This second tendency is split into two subgroups. A first group of scholars, now a minority within the discipline and mostly members of departments of economics in Europe and Northern America remains faithful to the American ‘New Economic History.’ However, by organizing themselves in a Cliometric Society (and partly also in the European Economic Association), they isolate themselves somewhat from the rest of the discipline. The second subgroup, the more numerous one, also uses economic theory and statistics. These scholars, however, do not formulate their hypotheses in the formal way as the cliometricians do. They prefer not to verify or falsify their hypotheses with econometric techniques as used by the cliometricians, and they include demographical, cultural, anthropological, mental, and institutional variables in their economic analysis.


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