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Roots of growth and productivity change in Dutch shipping industry, 1500-1800

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  • van Zanden, Jan Luiten
  • van Tielhof, Milja

Abstract

Shipping was one of the most dynamic industries of the pre industrial period. The article presents detailed estimates of the growth of output and inputs of the shipping industry in the Netherlands between 1500 and 1800. These are used to study the development of productivity in two ways: by comparing output with inputs (labour and capital), and by analysing the relationship between output prices and input prices. Both methods lead to different results, which we explain. It appears that productivity in this sector increased strongly between ca. 1550 and 1620 as a result of technological and institutional changes, such as the increased efficiency of the network of shipping routes. After 1620 labour productivity continued to increase because of factor substitution as wages increased much more than capital costs. The competitiveness of the Dutch shipping sector did not improve anymore after ca. 1650, however, which helps to explain why its rapid growth came to an end in the second half of the 17th century.

Suggested Citation

  • van Zanden, Jan Luiten & van Tielhof, Milja, 2009. "Roots of growth and productivity change in Dutch shipping industry, 1500-1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 389-403, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:4:p:389-403
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2002. "Taking the measure of the early modern economy: Historical national accounts for Holland in 1510/14," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(02), pages 131-163, August.
    2. de Vries,Jan & van der Woude,Ad, 1997. "The First Modern Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521570619, December.
    3. de Vries,Jan & van der Woude,Ad, 1997. "The First Modern Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521578257, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ojala, Jari & Pehkonen, Jaakko & Eloranta, Jari, 2016. "Deskilling and decline in skill premium during the age of sail: Swedish and Finnish seamen, 1751–1913," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 85-94.
    2. van Lottum, Jelle & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2014. "Labour productivity and human capital in the European maritime sector of the eighteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 83-100.
    3. 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.
    4. Bosker, Maarten & Buringh, Eltjo, 2017. "City seeds: Geography and the origins of the European city system," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 139-157.
    5. Oscar Gelderblom & Joost Jonker, 2013. "Early Capitalism in the Low Countries," Working Papers 0041, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    6. Jelle van Lottum & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2011. "Labour Productivity and human capital in the maritime sector of the North Atlantic, c. 1672-1815," Working Papers 0022, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.

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