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Markets in China and Europe on the Eve of the Industrial Revolution

  • Carol H. Shiue
  • Wolfgang Keller

Why did Western Europe industrialize first? An influential view holds that its exceptionally well-functioning markets supported with a certain set of institutions provided the incentives to make investments needed to industrialize. This paper examines this hypothesis by comparing the actual performance of markets in terms of market integration in Western Europe and China, two regions that were relatively advanced in the preindustrial period, but would start to industrialize about 150 years apart. We find that the performance of markets in China and Western Europe overall was comparable in the late eighteenth century. Market performance in England was higher than in the Yangzi Delta, and markets in England also performed better than those in continental Western Europe. This suggests strong market performance may be necessary, but it is not sufficient for industrialization. Rather than being a key condition for subsequent growth, improvements in market performance and growth occurred simultaneously. (JEL N13, N15, O47)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 97 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1189-1216

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:4:p:1189-1216
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.4.1189
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