Economic history

Thorsten Beck, Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Refet S. Gürkaynak, Andrea Ichino, 10 February 2016

The Global Crisis was a watershed, not just for economies around the world, but for economics as a discipline. This column introduces a special issue of Economic Policy that collects key papers on the Global Crisis published in its aftermath between 2009 and 2014. The papers chart the evolution of economists’ thinking on the causes of and cures for the Global and EZ Crises. 

Giovanni Federico, Antonio Tena-Junguito, 07 February 2016

Parallels are often drawn between the Great Recession of the past decade and the economic turmoil of the interwar period. In terms of global trade, these comparisons are based on obsolete and incomplete data. This column re-estimates world trade since the beginning of the 19th century using a new database. The effect of the Great Recession on trade growth is sizeable but fairly small compared with the joint effect of the two world wars and the Great Depression. However, the effects will become more and more comparable if the current trade stagnation continues.

Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts, Pieter Woltjer, 05 February 2016

The Great Depression is considered one of the darkest times for the US economy, but some argue that the US economy experienced strong productivity growth over the period. This column reassesses this performance using improved measures of total factor productivity that allow for comparisons of productivity growth in the Depression era and in later decades. Contrary to Alvin Hansen’s gloomy prognosis of secular stagnation, the US economy was in a very strong position during the 1930s by today’s standards.

Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 24 December 2015

The carving up of Africa by colonial powers is often a touch-stone for those concerned with African development and underdevelopment. This column looks into the effect imposed borders had on splitting ethnicities across countries. It finds that colonial border designs have spurred political violence and that ethnic partitioning is systematically linked to civil conflict, discrimination by the national government, and instability.

Sheilagh Ogilvie, 23 December 2015

A vocal set of economists argue that economies can succeed in the absence of strong state and public institutions. This column looks to the ‘Champagne fairs’ of medieval Europe for lessons in how important public institutions can be. Public authorities are crucial – for good or for ill. When rulers provided these as generalised institutional services to everyone, the Champagne fairs flourished. When they granted them to privileged groups only, trade declined and business moved elsewhere.

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