Best papers/books in economic history of the last decades


To record some good literatures on economic history for check later.

First is  proposes a list of ten papers/works that need to be read (in my opinion) by anyone interested in economic history.

Ten best papers/books in economic history of the last decades (part 1)

Ten best papers/books in economic history of the last decades (part 2)

  • Higgs, Robert. “Wartime Prosperity? A Reassessment of the US Economy in the 1940s.” Journal of Economic History 52, no. 01 (1992): 41-60.
  • Allen, Robert C. The British industrial revolution in global perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Broadberry, Stephen, Bruce MS Campbell, Alexander Klein, Mark Overton, and Bas Van Leeuwen. British economic growth, 1270–1870. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Chilosi, David, Tommy E. Murphy, Roman Studer, and A. Coşkun Tunçer. “Europe’s many integrations: Geography and grain markets, 1620–1913.” Explorations in Economic History 50, no. 1 (2013): 46-68.
  • Olmstead, Alan L., and Paul W. Rhode. Creating Abundance. Cambridge Books (2008).
  • Carlos, Ann M., and Frank D. Lewis. Commerce by a frozen sea: Native Americans and the European fur trade. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
  • Floud, Roderick, Robert W. Fogel, Bernard Harris, and Sok Chul Hong. The changing body: Health, nutrition, and human development in the western world since 1700. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • De Vries, Jan. The industrious revolution: consumer behavior and the household economy, 1650 to the present. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Anderson, Terry Lee, and Peter Jensen Hill. The not so wild, wild west: Property rights on the frontier. Stanford University Press, 2004.
  • Vedder, Richard K., and Lowell E. Gallaway. Out of work: unemployment and government in twentieth-century America. NYU Press, 1997.

Then posted his list:

1. Greg Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (though I totally disagree with it, it really grabbed me)

2. Peter Temin’s Roman Market Economy

3. Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein’s The Choosen Few

4. Douglass North, John Wallis, and Barry Weingast’s Violence and Social Orders

5. Ken Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence


Also inspired by Vincent Geloso offer a list of the 20-25 books in economic history published since 2000 which he have found most stimulating or provocative.

The most stimulating economic history books since 2000

Moreover, he also has a full-extent Economic History Books page and Economic History Papers page, which is intended to be a list of survey & reference books and papers for the economic history of particular regions or countries, as long as certain topics. The following is the Japan and China part.


The very very recent The Economic History of China (2016) by Glahn has no equivalent. There is no other book at the moment which simultaneously contains a readable narrative of the full sweep of Chinese economic history; and reflects recent scholarship both Chinese and international; and covers the major themes and controversies of the historiography in the manner of Elvin’s The Patterns of the Chinese Past (which is now quasi-ancient but still worth reading). Glahn’s book might have dealt a little bit more with the controversies surrounding the revisionism of Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence, which really changed the terms of the debate. But I’m cavilling.

An older overview is Perkins, Agricultural Development in China 1368-1968. Slightly idiosyncratic choice: Bray’s The Rice Economies: Technology & Development in Asian Societies. Lee & Feng, One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities, 1700-2000 is a demographic and family history of China. Rawski’s Chinese History in Economic Perspective is much more limited in scope than it sounds, but at least it’s free online !


Long run

  • Deng & O’Brien (2016), “China’s GDP Per Capita from the Han Dynasty to Communist Times”
  • Pomeranz (2008), “Chinese Development in Long-Run Perspective”
  • Brandt, Ma, & Rawski (2014), “From Divergence to Convergence: Reevaluating the History Behind China’s Economic Boom”
  • Deng (2000), “A Critical Survey of Recent Research in of Chinese Economic History.” EHR
  • Ko, Koyama, & Sng (2014), “Unified China and Divided Europe”
  • Bai & Kung (2011), “Climate Shocks and Sino-Nomadic Conflict”
  • Lee & Feng (1999), “Malthusian Models and Chinese Realities: The Chinese Demographic System 1700-2000”
  • Lee, Campbell, & Feng (2002), “Positive Check or Chinese Checks?”
  • Daniel Little on Mark Elvin’s “high level equilibrium trap” {if anyone has a PDF of the original Elvin article that’s been published in several books, I’d appreciate it}
  • Edwards (2013), “Redefining Industrial Revolution: Song China and England”
  • Wright (2007), “An Economic Cycle in Imperial China? Revisiting Robert Hartwell on Iron and Coal”

Early Modern

  • Ma (2004), “Growth, Institutions and Knowledge: A Review and Reflection on the Historiography of 18th-20th century China”
  • Deng (2015), “China’s Population Expansion and Its Causes during the Qing Period, 1644–1911”
  • Baten, Ma, Morgan & Wang (2010), “Evolution of living standards and human capital in China in the 18–20th centuries: Evidences from real wages, age-heaping, and anthropometrics”
  • Moise (1977), “Downward Social Mobility in Pre-Revolutionary China”

the Great Divergence

  • Pomeranz (2002), “Political economy and ecology on the eve of industrialization: Europe, China, and the global conjuncture” [ungated]
  • Brenner & Isett (2002), “England’s Divergence from China’s Yangzi Delta: Property Relations, Microeconomics, and Patterns of Development” [a critical analysis of Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence]
  • Huang (2002), “Development or Involution in Eighteenth-Century Britain and China? A Review of Kenneth Pomeranz’s ‘The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy‘”
  • Allen et al., “Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India”
  • Allen, “Agricultural productivity and rural incomes in England and the Yangtze Delta, c.1620–c.1820”
  • Li & van Zanden (2012), “Before the Great Divergence? Comparing the Yangzi Delta and the Netherlands at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century”, also see van Zanden’s VoxEU’s summary
  • Bernhofen, Eberhardt, Li & Morgan (2016), “Market disintegration as a pre-cursor to the Great Divergence”, which summarises their papers (12)
  • Ma (2011), “Rock, scissors, paper: the problem of incentives and information in traditional Chinese state and the origin of Great Divergence”
  • Greif & Tabellini (2010), “Cultural and Institutional Bifurcation: China and Europe Compared”
  • Greif & Tabellini (2017), “The clan and the corporation: Sustaining cooperation in China and Europe”

Republican China

  • Ma (2008), “Economic Growth in the Lower Yangzi Region of China in 1911-1937: A Quantitative and Historical Analysis”
  • Horesh (2009), “The pendulum swings again: recent debates on China’s prewar economy”


  • Meng, Qian & Yared (2015), “The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959–1961”
  • Li & Yang (2005), “The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster”
  • Yao (1999), “The Chinese Economic Miracle”
  • Xu (2011), “The Fundamental Institutions of China’s Reforms and Development”
  • Naughton (2017), “Is China Socialist?”



Given Japan’s status as the premier non-Western late industrialiser, there should be more books on Japan’s economic development with updated research. An ideal volume would start from the late Tokugawa period with Japan’s own version of the “industrious revolution” and the Meiji Restoration. It should also cover not only Japan’s pre-war industrialisation but also assessments of Japan’s post-war industrial policy and state planning (as described by Chalmers Johnson). Some books with various shortcomings:


  • Bassino et al. (2015), “Japan and the Great Divergence, 725-1874”; also see the VoxEU column
  • Morillo (1995), “Guns and Government: A Comparative Study of Europe and Japan”
  • Saito (2005), “Pre-modern economic growth revisited: Japan and the West”
  • Sugihara (2004), “The state and the industrious revolution in Tokugawa Japan”
  • Saito (2010), “An industrious revolution in an East Asian market economy? Tokugawa Japan and implications for the Great Divergence”
  • Koyama, Moriguchi, & Sng (2015), “Geopolitics and Asia’s Little Divergence: A Comparative Analysis of State Building in China and Japan after 1850”
  • Saxonhouse (1991), “Economic Growth and Trade Relations: Japanese Performance in Long-Term Perspective”
  • Tang (2016), “A tale of two SICs: Japanese and American industrialisation in historical perspective”
  • Nicholas (2011), “The origins of Japanese technological modernization”
  • Ma (2004), “Why Japan, Not China, Was the First to Develop in East Asia: Lessons from Sericulture, 1850–1937”
  • Braguinsky & Hounshell (2015), “Spinning Tales about Japanese Cotton Spinning: Saxonhouse (1974) and Lessons from New Data”
  • Tang (2011), “Technological leadership and late development: evidence from Meiji Japan, 1868–1912”
  • Jorgenson & Nomura (2007), “The Industry Origins of the U.S.-Japan Productivity Gap”
  • Fleitas (2016), comment on “Effects of Industrial Policy on Productivity: The case of import quota removal during postwar Japan”


The British Industrial Revolution

The current major views

  • Kelly, Mokyr, & Ó Gráda (2014), “Precocious Albion: A New Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution” {the human capital perspective}
  • Mokyr (2005), “The intellectual origins of modern economic growth”
  • Allen (2015), “The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: a restatement” [ungated]
  • Allen (2011), “Why the industrial revolution was British: commerce, induced invention, and the scientific revolution”; also see his VoxEU column
  • Crafts (2010), “Explaining the first Industrial Revolution: Two Views”
  • Ó Gráda (2016), “Did Science Cause the Industrial Revolution?” [ungated]
  • Clark (2014) “The Industrial Revolution: A Cliometric Perspective” (from Handbook of Economic Growth, Volume 2)
  • Clark (2001), “The Secret History of the Industrial Revolution”
  • Engerman & O’Brien (2004), “The industrial revolution in global perspective”
  • O’Brien (2010), “Ten Years of Debate on the Origins of the Great Divergence”
  • O’Brien (2006), “Provincializing the First Industrial Revolution”


  • Mokyr (2005), “Long-Term Economic Growth and the History of Technology” (from Handbook of Economic Growth) {ungated}
  • Bruland (2004), “Industrialisation and technological change”
  • Crafts & Harley (1992), “Output growth and the British Industrial Revolution: A Restatement of the Crafts-Harley view”
  • Berg & Hudson (1992), “Rehabilitating the industrial revolution” {ungated}
  • Temin (1997) “Two views of the British Industrial Revolution”
  • Wrigley (2013), “Energy and the English Industrial Revolution”
  • Crafts (1977), “Industrial Revolution in England and France: Some Thoughts on the Question, “Why was England First?”

Older surveys still worth reading

  • Mokyr (1998), “The Editor’s Introduction: The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution” (also see Kevin Bryan’s post on this)
  • Inikori (2000) “The English Economy in the Longue Durée, 1086–1850”
  • Inikori (2000) “A Historiography of the First Industrial Revolution”
  • McCloskey (1994), “The Industrial Revolution 1780-1860: A Survey”
  • McCloskey (1981), “The Industrial Revolution 1780-1860: A Survey”

Preindustrial England

  • Campbell (2010), “Nature as historical protagonist: environment and society in pre-industrial England”
  • Allen (2008) “The Nitrogen Hypothesis and the English Agricultural Revolution: A Biological Analysis”
  • Stephenson (2016), “How (much) were British workers paid ? Evidence beyond wage rates”
  • Clark & Cummins (2009), “Urbanization, Mortality, and Fertility in Malthusian England”
  • Allen (2008), review of Clark’s A Farewell to Alms { imo the best parts are the critique of Clark’s neo-Malthusianism and view of institutions }
  • Clark & Hamilton (2006), “Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England”
  • Galofre-Vila et al. (2017), “Heights across England in the last 2000 years”


  • Allen (2009), “Engels’ pause: Technical change, capital accumulation, and inequality in the British industrial revolution” {I might also list Clark’s opposing view, but I think Allen really clinches the case with this paper}
  • Clark (1994), “Factory Discipline”
  • Gallardo (2016), “British well-being 1780-1850: Measuring the impact of industrialisation on wages, health, inequality, and working time”
  • Humphries (2012), “Childhood and child labour in the British industrial revolution”
  • Mokyr (1977), “Demand vs. Supply in the Industrial Revolution”
  • Bruland & Smith (2013), “Assessing the role of steam power in the first industrial revolution: The early work of Nick von Tunzelmann”
  • Howes (2016), “The Improving Mentality: Innovation during the British Industrial Revolution, 1651-1851”
  • Clark, O’Rourke, & Taylor (2014), “The growing dependence of Britain on trade during the Industrial Revolution”

Open Fields & Enclosures

  • Allen (2001), “Community and Market in England: Open Fields and Enclosures Revisited”
  • Clark (1998), “Commons Sense: Common Property Rights, Efficiency, and Institutional Change”
  • McCloskey (1995), “Allen’s Enclosure and the Yeoman: the View from Tory Fundamentalism”


Institutions: Dominant Views

  • North, Wallis, & Weingast (2006), “A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History”
  • Engerman & Sokoloff (2000), “Institutions, Factor Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World”
  • Acemoglu, Johnson & Robinson (2005), “Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth”

Institutions: Sceptical Views

  • Ogilvie & Carus (2014), “Institutions & Economic Growth in Historical Perspective”
  • Ogilvie (2007), “‘Whatever Is, Is Right’? Economic Institutions in Pre-Industrial Europe”
  • Iyigun (2012), “Are We There Yet? Time for Checks and Balances on New Institutionalism”
  • Irigoin & Grafe (2012), “Bounded Leviathan: or why North and Weingast are only right on the right half”
  • Vollrath (2014) “The Skeptics’ Guide to Institutions” (4 parts)
  • Glaeser et al. (2004), “Do Institutions Cause Growth?”
  • Clark (2007), review of Avner Greif’s Institutions & the Path to the Modern Economy

Effective states

  • Johnson & Koyama (2016), “States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints”
  • Dincecco (2015), “The Rise of Effective States in Europe”
  • Bardhan (2016), “State and Development: The Need for a Reappraisal of the Current Literature”

Informal Institutions

  • Alesina & Giuliano (2015), “Culture & Institutions”
  • Greif (1994), “Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies”
  • Greif (2000), “The fundamental problem of exchange: A research agenda in Historical Institutional Analysis”
  • Greif (2006a), “Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations”
  • Greif (2006b), “The Birth of Impersonal Exchange: The Community Responsibility System and Impartial Justice”
  • Greif (2008), “Coercion and Exchange: How did Markets Evolve?”
  • Schultz (2016), “The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy”
  • Greif & Mokyr (2017), “Cognitive rules, institutions, and economic growth”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s