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Explaining the Great Divergence: Medium and Message on the Eurasian Land Mass, 1700-1850

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  • DUDLEY, Leonard

Abstract

Between 1700 and 1850, per-capita income doubled in Europe while falling in the rest of Eurasia. Neither geography nor economic institutions can explain this sudden divergence. Here the consequences of differences in communications technology are examined. For the first time, there appeared in Europe a combination of a standardized medium (national vernaculars with a phonetic alphabet) and a non-standardized message (competing religious, political and scientific ideas). The result was an unprecedented fall in the cost of combining ideas and burst of productivity-raising innovation. Elsewhere, decreasing standardization of the medium and increasing standardization of the message blocked innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • DUDLEY, Leonard, 2003. "Explaining the Great Divergence: Medium and Message on the Eurasian Land Mass, 1700-1850," Cahiers de recherche 2003-19, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:2003-19
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1866/506
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Leonard Dudley, 2000. "The rationality of revolution," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 77-103, March.
    2. Martin L. Weitzman, 1998. "Recombinant Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 331-360.
    3. Holler, Manfred J. & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1996. "The economics of standardization: Introduction and overview," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 177-182, September.
    4. Deepak Lal, 2001. "Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Factor Endowments, Culture, and Politics on Long-Run Economic Performance," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262621541, January.
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    JEL classification:

    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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