IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Horsemen of the apocalypse: The Mongol Empire and the great divergence


  • Rafael Torres Gaviria


Why did the Industrial Revolution take place in Europe, but did not in India or China? This paper uses a novel dataset and builds a general model to study the economic transformations of the Late Middle Ages that led to the Industrial Revolution and the Great Divergence. Through modern econometric techniques, I exploit the Mongol Invasions of the 13th century to account for the role of violence, commerce, and technology in the structural transformations of Eurasia from the Middle Ages into the Modern Era. I show theoretically and verify empirically how the large-scale violence and new trade opportunities brought by the Mongol Empire allowed Western Europe to catch up and surpass the levels of income and technical capacity of the great Asian civilizations. Furthermore, I found that the impact of the Mongol Conquests persisted and deepened at least into the 19th century. The Mongol Invasions of the 13th century can be regarded as a fundamental cause of the Rise of Europe and the Decline of Asia. Moreover, the rise and fall of the Mongol Empire is a key event in understanding the transition from a Malthusian world into a world of sustained economic growth and inter-regional inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Torres Gaviria, 2022. "Horsemen of the apocalypse: The Mongol Empire and the great divergence," Documentos CEDE 20533, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:020533

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    2. Lane, Nathaniel, 2016. "Manufacturing Revolutions: Industrial Policy and Industrialization in South Korea," SocArXiv 6tqax, Center for Open Science.
    3. Nunn, Nathan, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Scholarly Articles 33077824, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    4. Alberto Abadie & Susan Athey & Guido W Imbens & Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2023. "When Should You Adjust Standard Errors for Clustering?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 138(1), pages 1-35.
    5. Matias D. Cattaneo & Michael Jansson & Xinwei Ma, 2020. "Simple Local Polynomial Density Estimators," Journal of the American Statistical Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 115(531), pages 1449-1455, July.
    6. Singh, Nirvikar, 2009. "Essays on India’s Economic Growth," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt9qr7z6x1, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    7. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
    8. Philippe Aghion & Peter Howitt, 2009. "The Economics of Growth," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262012634, December.
    9. Parthasarathi,Prasannan, 2011. "Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521168243.
    10. Peter C. B. Phillips & Donggyu Sul, 2009. "Economic transition and growth," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(7), pages 1153-1185.
    11. Philippe Aghion & Diego Comin & Peter Howitt & Isabel Tecu, 2016. "When Does Domestic Savings Matter for Economic Growth?," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 64(3), pages 381-407, August.
    12. Katarina Keller & Panu Poutvaara & Andreas Wagener, 2009. "Military Draft And Economic Growth In Oecd Countries," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(5), pages 373-393, October.
    13. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    14. Melissa Dell & Nathan Lane & Pablo Querubin, 2018. "The Historical State, Local Collective Action, and Economic Development in Vietnam," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 86(6), pages 2083-2121, November.
    15. Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 80(2), pages 774-811.
    16. Nathan Nunn, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 65-92, May.
    17. Seppo Honkapohja & Frank Westermann, 2009. "Economic Growth in the European Union," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Seppo Honkapohja & Frank Westermann (ed.), Designing the European Model, chapter 8, pages 259-295, Palgrave Macmillan.
    18. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    19. Stelios Michalopoulos & Alireza Naghavi & Giovanni Prarolo, 2018. "Trade and Geography in the Spread of Islam," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(616), pages 3210-3241, December.
    20. Kuroda, Akinobu, 2009. "The Eurasian silver century, 1276–1359: commensurability and multiplicity," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 245-269, July.
    21. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
    22. James Feyrer & Bruce Sacerdote, 2009. "Colonialism and Modern Income: Islands as Natural Experiments," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 245-262, May.
    23. Parthasarathi,Prasannan, 2011. "Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107000308.
    24. Turchin, Peter, 2009. "A theory for formation of large empires," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 191-217, July.
    25. Steven N. Durlauf & Paul A. Johnson & Jonathan R. W. Temple, 2009. "The Methods of Growth Econometrics," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Terence C. Mills & Kerry Patterson (ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Econometrics, chapter 24, pages 1119-1179, Palgrave Macmillan.
    26. Blanchard, Olivier J, 1985. "Debt, Deficits, and Finite Horizons," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(2), pages 223-247, April.
    27. Ping Che & Jianghu Lan, 2021. "Climate Change along the Silk Road and Its Influence on Scythian Cultural Expansion and Rise of the Mongol Empire," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(5), pages 1-17, February.
    28. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    29. -, 2009. "Economic growth in the Caribbean," Sede Subregional de la CEPAL para el Caribe (Estudios e Investigaciones) 38668, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    30. Leonard Wantchekon & Nathan Nunn, 2009. "Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," 2009 Meeting Papers 34, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    31. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Introductory Chapters, in: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press.
    32. Buringh, Eltjo & Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2009. "Charting the “Rise of the West†: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 409-445, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Holger Strulik, 2014. "Knowledge And Growth In The Very Long Run," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 55(2), pages 459-482, May.
    2. Funke, Michael & Yu, Hao, 2011. "The emergence and spatial distribution of Chinese seaport cities," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 196-209, June.
    3. Nurullah Gur, 2015. "Trust and the wealth of nations," Progress in Development Studies, , vol. 15(2), pages 107-124, April.
    4. Ho, Chi Pui, 2016. "GeoPopulation-Institution Hypothesis: Reconciling American Development Process and Reversal of Fortune within a Unified Growth Framework," MPRA Paper 73863, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Blagov, Boris & Funke, Michael, 2019. "The Regime-Dependent Evolution Of Credibility: A Fresh Look At Hong Kong'S Linked Exchange Rate System," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(6), pages 2434-2468, September.
    6. Sulekha Hembram & Souparna Maji & Sushil Kr. Haldar, 2019. "Club Convergence among the Major Indian States During 1982–2014: Does Investment in Human Capital Matter?," South Asia Economic Journal, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, vol. 20(2), pages 184-204, September.
    7. Tobias Schlegel & Curdin Pfister & Dietmar Harhoff & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2022. "Innovation effects of universities of applied sciences: an assessment of regional heterogeneity," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 63-118, February.
    8. Emmanuel Bovari & Victor Court, 2019. "Energy, knowledge, and demo-economic development in the long run: a unified growth model," Working Papers hal-01698755, HAL.
    9. Magnus Henrekson & Dan Johansson & Johan Karlsson, 2024. "To Be or Not to Be: The Entrepreneur in Neo-Schumpeterian Growth Theory," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, , vol. 48(1), pages 104-140, January.
    10. Fernandes, Leonardo H.S. & de Araújo, Fernando H.A. & Silva, Igor E.M. & Neto, Jusie S.P., 2021. "Macroeconophysics indicator of economic efficiency," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 573(C).
    11. Alireza Motameni, 2021. "The Impact of Oil Rent, Currency Overvaluation, and Institution Quality, on Economic Growth of Oil-Rich Countries: A Heterogeneous Panel Data Study," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 11(3), pages 483-493.
    12. Philippe Askenazy & Gilbert Cette & Paul Maarek, 2018. "Rent‐Sharing and Workers' Bargaining Power: An Empirical Cross‐Country/ Cross‐Industry Panel Analysis," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 120(2), pages 563-596, April.
    13. Gebs, Mehdi & Nabi, Mahmoud Sami, 2021. "The economic impacts of digitalization through an extended input-output model: theory and application to Tunisia," MPRA Paper 113299, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Esteban Colla‐De‐Robertis & Rafael Garduno Rivera, 2021. "The effect of a free trade agreement with the United States on member countries' per capita GDP: A synthetic control analysis," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(4), pages 1129-1145, August.
    15. Reynaldo Senra Hodelin, 2022. "A Schumpeterian growth model on the effect of development banking on growth," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 55(2), pages 607-634, May.
    16. Angelopoulos, Angelos & Economides, George & Liontos, George & Philippopoulos, Apostolis & Sakkas, Stelios, 2022. "Public redistributive policies in general equilibrium: An application to Greece," The Journal of Economic Asymmetries, Elsevier, vol. 26(C).
    17. Jules René Minkoua Nzié & Ateh Thomson Pepeah, 2022. "Are natural resources an impetus for economic growth in Africa?," Natural Resources Forum, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(1), pages 136-153, February.
    18. Kazuo Mino & Hiroaki Sasaki, 2021. "Long-Run Consequences of Population Decline in an Economy with Exhaustible Natural Resources," KIER Working Papers 1062, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
    19. Shahbaz, Muhammad & Song, Malin & Ahmad, Shabbir & Vo, Xuan Vinh, 2022. "Does economic growth stimulate energy consumption? The role of human capital and R&D expenditures in China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C).
    20. Kai Zhao, 2021. "Competition of International Trade, Technology Spillover, and R&D Innovation," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 12(2), pages 676-694, June.

    More about this item


    Mongol Empire; Great Divergence; Industrial Revolution; Growth; Trade; Violence; Technology transfer;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C02 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General - - - Mathematical Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:col:000089:020533. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Universidad De Los Andes-Cede (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.