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

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  • Robert C. Allen

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert C. Allen, 2008. "A Review of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 946-973, December.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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, February.
    3. 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.
    4. O'Rourke, Kevin H, 2000. "Tariffs and Growth in the Late 19th Century," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(463), pages 456-483, April.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    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. 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.
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    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. Nicolini, Esteban A., 2007. "Was Malthus right? A VAR analysis of economic and demographic interactions in pre-industrial England," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 99-121, April.
    20. 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.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. links for 2010-02-21
      by Jim in Our Word is Our Weapon on 2010-02-22 09:01:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Clark, Gregory, 2010. "The Consumer Revolution: Turning Point in Human History, or Statistical Artifact?," MPRA Paper 25467, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Karayalcin, Cem, 2016. "Property rights and the first great divergence: Europe 1500–1800," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 484-498.
    3. Sambit Bhattacharyya, 2011. "Growth Miracles and Growth Debacles," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13609.
    4. Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2014. "Urbanization and Growth: Why Did the Splendor of the Italian Cities in the Sixteenth Century not Lead to Transition?," CESifo Working Paper Series 5038, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Erdkamp, Paul, 2016. "Economic growth in the Roman Mediterranean world: An early good-bye to Malthus?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1-20.
    6. John Foster, 2014. "Energy, knowledge and economic growth," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 209-238, April.
    7. Gregory Clark & Joe Cummins & Brock Smith, 2010. "The Surprising Wealth of Pre-industrial England," Working Papers 1014, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    8. Clark, Gregory, 2013. "1381 and the Malthus delusion," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 4-15.
    9. Seven Agir, 2011. "The Evolution of Grain Policy Beyond Europe: Ottoman Grain Administration in the Late Eighteenth Century," Working Papers 999, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    10. Nicholas Crafts, 2010. "Cliometrics and technological change: a survey," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(5), pages 1127-1147.
    11. Ken Tabata, 2013. "The Expansion of the Commercial Sector and the Child Quantity-Quality Transition in a Malthusian World," Discussion Paper Series 105, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, revised May 2013.
    12. Chiarini, Bruno, 2010. "Was Malthus right? The relationship between population and real wages in Italian history, 1320 to 1870," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 460-475, October.
    13. Charles J. Cook, 2011. "The Role of Lactose Tolerance in Pre-Colonial Development," Departmental Working Papers 2011-12, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.

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    JEL classification:

    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General

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