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Accounting for the “Little Divergence”: What drove economic growth in pre-industrial Europe, 1300–1800?

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  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt
  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

Abstract

We test various hypotheses about the causes of the Little Divergence, using new data and focusing on trends in GDP per capita and urbanization. We find evidence that confirms the hypothesis that human capital formation was the driver of growth, and that institutional changes (in particular the rise of active Parliaments) were closely related to economic growth. We also test for the role of religion (the spread of Protestantism): this has affected human capital formation, but does not in itself have an impact on growth.

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  • Alexandra M. de Pleijt & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2016. "Accounting for the “Little Divergence”: What drove economic growth in pre-industrial Europe, 1300–1800?," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 387-409.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ereveh:v:20:y:2016:i:4:p:387-409.
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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Cristina Victoria Radu & Paul Sharp, 2020. "Standards of Living and Skill Premia in Eighteenth Century Denmark: What can we learn from a large microlevel wage database?," Working Papers 0180, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Thomas Keywood & Jörg Baten, 2021. "Elite violence and elite numeracy in Europe from 500 to 1900 CE: roots of the divergence," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 15(2), pages 319-389, May.
    3. Sarah Guilland Carmichael & Alexandra de Pleijt & Jan Luiten van Zanden & Tine De Moor, 2015. "Reply to Tracy Dennison and Sheilagh Ogilvie: The European Marriage pattern and the Little Divergence," Working Papers 0070, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    4. Adrien Montalbo, 2020. "Education supply and economic growth in nineteenth-century France," PSE Working Papers halshs-02482643, HAL.
    5. David Le Bris & William N. Goetzmann & Sébastien Pouget, 2015. "The Development of Corporate Governance in Toulouse: 1372-1946," NBER Working Papers 21335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Baten, Jörg & Keywood, Thomas, 2019. "Elite Violence and Elite Numeracy in Europe from 500 to 1900 CE: A Co-Evolution?," CEPR Discussion Papers 14013, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Ekaterina Khaustova & Paul Sharp, 2015. "A Note on Danish Living Standards through Historical Wage Series, 1731-1913," Working Papers 0081, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    8. Alexandra de Pleijt & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2021. "Two worlds of female labour: gender wage inequality in western Europe, 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 74(3), pages 611-638, August.
    9. BASSINO, Jean-Pascal & van der ENG, Pierre, 2016. "Asia's 'Little Divergence' in the 20th Century: Evidence from PPP-based direct estimates of GDP per capita, 1913-1969," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-28, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    10. Baten, Jörg & de Pleijt, Alexandra, 2018. "Female autonomy generates superstars in long-term development: Evidence from 15th to 19th century Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 13348, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Adrien Montalbo, 2019. "Education and economic development. The influence of primary schooling on municipalities in nineteenth-century France," Working Papers halshs-02286126, HAL.
    12. Fochesato, Mattia, 2018. "Origins of Europe’s north-south divide: Population changes, real wages and the ‘little divergence’ in early modern Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 91-131.
    13. Guido Alfani & Wouter Ryckbosch, 2015. "Was there a ‘Little Convergence’ in inequality? Italy and the Low Countries compared, ca. 1500-1800," Working Papers 557, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    14. Mario García-Zúñiga & Ernesto López-Losa, 2019. "Building Workers in Madrid (1737-1805). New Wage Series and Working Lives," Working Papers 0152, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    15. Adrien Montalbo, 2020. "Education supply and economic growth in nineteenth-century France," Working Papers halshs-02482643, HAL.
    16. Szoltysek, Mikolaj & Poniat, Radosław, 2019. "Historical family systems and lasting developmental trajectories in Europe: the power of the family?," SocArXiv ad7qr, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe

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