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A Review of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World

  • Robert C. Allen

A Farewell to Alms advances striking claims about the economic history of the world. These include (1) the preindustrial world was in a Malthusian preventive check equilibrium, (2) living standards were unchanging and above subsistence for the last 100,000 years, (3) bad institutions were not the cause of economic backwardness, (4) successful economic growth was due to the spread of "middle class" values from the elite to the rest of society for "biological" reasons, (5) workers were the big gainers in the British Industrial Revolution, and (6) the absence of middle class values, for biological reasons, explains why most of the world is poor. The empirical support for these claims is examined, and all are questionable.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jel.46.4.946
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Literature.

Volume (Year): 46 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 946-73

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:46:y:2008:i:4:p:946-73
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.46.4.946
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  1. Weir, David R., 1984. "Life Under Pressure: France and England, 1670–1870," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(01), pages 27-47, March.
  2. Clark, Gregory, 1987. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(01), pages 141-173, March.
  3. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Pessimism Preserved: Real Wages in the British Industrial Revolution," Economics Series Working Papers 314, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Hatcher, John & Bailey, Mark, 2001. "Modelling the Middle Ages: The History and Theory of England's Economic Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199244126, March.
  5. Esteban A. Nicolini, 2006. "Was Malthus Right? A Var Analysis Of Economic And Demographic Interactions In Pre-Industrial England," Working Papers in Economic History wh060601, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales.
  6. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
  7. Wilkins, Mira, 1987. "Efficiency and Management: A Comment on Gregory Clark's “Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 981-983, December.
  8. Peter M. Solar, 1995. "Poor relief and English economic development before the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-22, 02.
  9. 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.
  10. Quinn, Stephen, 2001. "The Glorious Revolution'S Effect On English Private Finance: A Microhistory, 1680 1705," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(03), pages 593-615, September.
  11. Mitra, Arup, 1999. "Agglomeration Economies as Manifested in Technical Efficiency at the Firm Level," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 490-500, May.
  12. de Vries, Jan, 1994. "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 249-270, June.
  13. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Engel`s Pause: A Pessimist`s Guide to the British Industrial Revolution," Economics Series Working Papers 315, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  14. Feinstein, Charles H., 1998. "Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and after the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 625-658, September.
  15. Hanson, John R., 1988. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? A Traditional View," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 668-672, September.
  16. Wolcott, Susan & Clark, Gregory, 1999. "Why Nations Fail: Managerial Decisions and Performance in Indian Cotton Textiles, 1890–1938," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(02), pages 397-423, June.
  17. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925," Economics Series Working Papers 316, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  18. Sankar, Ulaganathan, 1970. "Elasticities of Substitution and Returns to Scale in Indian Manufacturing Industries," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 11(3), pages 399-411, October.
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