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The Production and Circulation of Manuscripts and Printed Books in China Compared to Europe, ca. 581-1840


  • Ting Xu


Literature dealing with the history of Chinese printed books and printing is voluminous. Yet studies of how knowledge in general and utilitarian forms of knowledge in particular were generated, accumulated and circulated by printed books and their relationship with the long-term socio-economic transformation of China are rare. This paper aims to open up the subject by examining long-term trends in the production of manuscripts and books and focussing on connections between the generation and dissemination of useful knowledge in China and the production and circulation of printed books over the centuries and dynasties from circa 581 to 1840 compared to Europe. It connects trends in this indicator for knowledge formation and diffusion to economic growth, urbanisation, changes in higher forms of education, the rise of literacy, the development of printing technologies, and changes in perceptions of the natural world. It concludes that human capital formation in China probably proceeded at a slower rate, which is relevant for narratives of the .divergenceÿ between China and Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • Ting Xu, 2013. "The Production and Circulation of Manuscripts and Printed Books in China Compared to Europe, ca. 581-1840," The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics 53, TUT Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance.
  • Handle: RePEc:tth:wpaper:53

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    Cited by:

    1. Maya Shatzmiller, 2015. "An early knowledge economy: the adoption of paper, human capital and economic change in the medieval Islamic Middle East, 700-1300 AD," Working Papers 0064, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.

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