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Week 3. Global Economic History and Capitalism

The publication of Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence in 2000 started an important debate about the differing economic and social trajectory of Asia and Europe since the Middle Ages. It also provided new impetus for economic history to rethink its questions in a global framework. Whilst some embraced comparative and connective methodologies and emphasised qualitative factors, others developed large-scale comparative analyses based on the systematic gathering of GPD, price and wage statistics. More recently the new field of global economic history has come to reflect of other important questions among which the meaning of capitalism (and related capital and labour regimes) and the importance of understanding inequality from a historical point of view.

- Which are the main problems and issues raised by global economic history?
- In what ways is global economic history different from the existing discipline of economic history?
- Which are the methodologies, theories and conceptual toolkit used by global economic history?
- Which are the pitfalls of global economic history?

Key Readings
Pat Hudson and Francesco Boldizzoni, ‘Introduction’, in Pat Hudson and Francesco Boldizzoni, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Global Economic History (Routledge, 2016). available via Amazon preview.

Prasannan Parthasarathi and Kenneth Pomeranz, ‘The Great Divergence Debate’, in Tirthankar Roy and Giorgio Riello (eds.), Global Economic History (Bloomsbury, 2018), 19-37.

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Belknap Press, 2014), pp. 1-35.

Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, ‘Introduction: Global Economic History, 1500-2000’, in Tirthankar Roy and Giorgio Riello (eds.), Global Economic History (Bloomsbury, 2018), 1-15.

And have a look at this online resource:

Datafiles of Historical Prices and Wages: (accessed 15 April 2017).

Further Readings


Jorgen Baten, A History of the Global Economy: 1500 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Prasannan Parthasarathi (2002), ‘Review article: the Great Divergence’, Past and Present 176, pp. 275-93.
R. Studer, The Great Divergence Reconsidered: Europe, India, and the Rise to Global Economic Power (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
P. H. H. Vries, ‘Are coal and colonies really crucial? Kenneth Pomeranz and the Great Divergence’, Journal of World History, 12/2 (2001), pp. 408-46.
P. H. H. Vries, State, Economy and the Great Divergence (Bloomsbury, 2015).

National Accounting, Wages and Prices
R. C. Allen, J.-P. Bassino, D. Ma, C. Moll-Murata and J. L. van Zanden, ‘Wages, prices, and living standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India’, Economic History Review, 64 (supplement S1) (2011), 8–38.
R. C. Allen, ‘The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: A restatement’, Economic History Review, 68/1 (2015), 1–22.
J. Bolt and J. L. van Zanden, ‘The Maddison Project: collaborative research on historical national accounts’, Economic History Review, 67/3 (2014), 627–51.
Daniel Speich, ‘The use of global abstractions: national income accounting in the period of imperial decline’, Journal of Global History, 6/1 (2011), pp. 7-28.

Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
Larry Neal and J. G. Williamson, The Cambridge History of Capitalism. 2 vols., (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
J. Kocka, Capitalism. A Short History (Princeton University Press, 2016).
James Oakes, ‘Capitalism and Slavery and the Civil War', International Labor and Working-Class History, 89 (2016), pp. 195-220.

A. Atkinson, Inequality: What can be done? (Harvard University Press, 2015).
François Bourguignon, The Globalization of Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2015).
Angus Deaton, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2015)
Pat Hudson and Keith Tribe (eds.), The Contradictions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century: The Piketty Opportunity (Agenda Publishing, 2016)
Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalisation (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016).