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Advantage Magazine: Economic History Special Spring 2022

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Advantage Magazine: Economic History Special Spring 2022

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Welcome to the Economic History special issue of Advantage Magazine…

In this issue...

Did railways affect literacy? Evidence from India
James Fenske

Missing women in India
Bishnupriya Gupta

Capital and economic growth in Britain: 1270–1870
Stephen Broadberry and Alexandrea M. de Pleijt

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa
Stephen Broadberry and Leigh Gardner

Borders within Europe
Marta Santamaria

The unintended consequences of censorship
Sascha O. Becker, Francisco Pino and Jordi Vidal-Robert

Parting shot
Mark Harrison

In this issue we are celebrating research from our vibrant community of economists working on global economic history – the largest network of its kind based in the UK.

The findings of the articles speak for themselves. But it is easy to overlook the efforts undertaken to locate, organise and interpret the historical data underpinning them.

Much of the research in this issue is the result of hours spent in archives, photographing documents or taking handwritten notes. It is the fruit of careful labours to transcribe centuries-old handwriting or trawl massive online databases.

It is also the outcome of innovative thinking: our authors, for example, have successfully found ways to measure growth and GDP since 1270, long before official records began.

The compilation of historic datasets can be as impressive as the findings drawn from them. For this reason we are launching the CAGE Global Economic History Database; we want to make our data accessible to scholars, who may otherwise spend hours in archives and libraries duplicating the same work. Much of the data underpinning these articles can be found there, alongside interactive visualisations. Do go and explore.

The articles in this issue reflect the global nature of CAGE’s economic history group. We start in colonial India, where James Fenske describes the effect of railways on literacy. Bishnupriya Gupta investigates missing women in India, asking whether historic factors can offer some explanation for the deficit of women found today.

Next, we are introduced to innovative techniques measuring long-term global economic growth. Stephen Broadberry and Alexandra M. de Pleijt provide the first estimates of investment and capital stock in Britain 1270–1870, while Stephen Broadberry and Leigh Gardner extend our understanding of African economic growth in their longitudinal study of sub-Saharan Africa 1885–2008.

Moving to Europe, Marta Santamaria asks what effect borders – those centuries old and those recently formed – have on European trade. Sascha O. Becker, Francisco J. Pino and Jordi Vidal-Robert reveal the unintended consequences of religious censorship in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Mark Harrison’s Parting Shot celebrates the importance of historical research as a means of making sense of modern events. But he also offers a poignant warning: when historic values are misrepresented, as they have been by Vladimir Putin, they can set us on unexpected and devastating paths.

Stephanie Seavers, Editor