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Accounting for the ‘Little Divergence’ What drove economic growth in preindustrial Europe, 1300-1800?

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  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt
  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

Abstract

The Little Divergence is the process of differential economic growth within Europe in the period between 1300 and 1800, during which the North Sea Area developed into the most prosperous and dynamic part of the Continent. We test various hypotheses about the causes of the Little Divergence, using new data and focusing on trends in GDP per capita. The results are that institutional changes (in particular the rise of active Parliaments), human capital formation and structural change are the primary drivers of the growth that occurred, which contrast sharply with previous findings by Robert Allen (who however focused on real wages as dependent variable). We also test for the role of religion (the spread of Protestantism): this has affected human capital formation, but does not in itself have an impact on growth. Moreover, we find an insignificant effect of the land-labour ratio, which shows the limitations of the Malthusian model for understanding the Little Divergence.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0046.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0046

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Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl
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Keywords: Europe; economic growth; Little Divergence; institutional change;

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  1. Jörg Baten & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2007. "Book production and the onset of modern economic growth," Economics Working Papers 1030, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 4274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Raouf, BOUCEKKINE & David, DE LA CROIX & Dominique, PEETERS, 2005. "Early Literacy Achievements, Population Density and the Transition to Modern Growth," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2005023, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
  4. Schultz, Theodore W, 1975. "The Value of the Ability to Deal with Disequilibria," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 827-46, September.
  5. van Zanden, Jan Luiten & van Leeuwen, Bas, 2012. "Persistent but not consistent: The growth of national income in Holland 1347–1807," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 119-130.
  6. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2007. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," IZA Discussion Papers 2886, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Stephen Broadberry & Bruce Campbell & Alexander Klein & Mark Overton & Bas van Leeuwen, 2012. "British Economic Growth, 1270-1870: an output-based approach," Studies in Economics 1203, Department of Economics, University of Kent.
  8. Buringh, Eltjo & Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2009. "Charting the “Rise of the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(02), pages 409-445, June.
  9. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, July.
  10. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  11. BOUCEKKINE, Raouf & DE LA CROIX, David & PEETERS, Dominique, 2007. "Disentangling the demographic determinants of the English take-off: 1530-1860," CORE Discussion Papers 2007033, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. Tine De Moor & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2010. "Girl power: the European marriage pattern and labour markets in the North Sea region in the late medieval and early modern period -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(1), pages 1-33, 02.
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