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

  • van Zanden, Jan Luiten
  • van Tielhof, Milja

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 46 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 389-403

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:4:p:389-403
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  1. de Vries,Jan & van der Woude,Ad, 1997. "The First Modern Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521570619.
  2. 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.
  3. de Vries,Jan & van der Woude,Ad, 1997. "The First Modern Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521578257.
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