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Swedish GDP 1620-1800 : stagnation or growth ?

  • Rodney Benjamin Edvinsson


    (Department of Economic History, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

This paper reconstructs an annual volume series of GDP and GDP per capita for Sweden within present borders 1620–1800, extending the annual series that exist from 1800 onwards. Annual fluctuations of GDP are estimated from the annual fluctuations of harvests, which in the nineteenth century were strongly correlated with each other. Long-term trends are determined based on estimates of the values added of various activities for a few benchmark years. The paper shows that the long-term trend of GDP per capita increased modestly during the studied period, a different development from real wages that fell substantially. Henceforth, available data on real wages are at best a quite weak indicator of the development of GDP per capita. If Sweden is representative of Western Europe, the new data indicate a somewhat slower growth than assumed by Maddison. The increase in GDP per capita occurred in the seventeenth century and came entirely from non-agricultural activities, especially mining, public services, trade and transports. The lack of dynamism in the aggregate economy is explained by the dominance of agriculture. Per capita agricultural production displayed a stagnating tendency. Nevertheless, the expansion of the population in the eighteenth century was largely made possible by the increased use of iron tools in agriculture. Without technological progress, the strong population growth would probably have led to decreased per capita production.

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Article provided by Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC) in its journal Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History.

Volume (Year): 7 (2013)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 37-60

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Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:7:y:2013:i:1:p:37-60
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