Chapter 1: Very Long-term Economic Growth and its Implications
INTRODUCTION: SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT Studying the very long term has never been fashionable among general historians and even less so among economic historians and economists. During the 1950s and 1960s scholars concerned with possible lessons for developing countries concentrated any historical investigations they did make on the British industrial revolution and the industrialization of follower countries, of which Meiji Japan was then the sole non-Western example. But these studies did not teach many lessons that could be applied directly to very poor countries with weak institutions. Historical processes had in any case been too slow to appeal to people living through the early stages of development. They wanted to jump to the present. Eventually the interest petered out. History almost vanished from economics syllabuses. During the 1980s and 1990s, interest has however again been displayed in economic change over long periods, over wide regions, and indeed at the global level. The rise of international economic integration may now seem to add legitimacy to work on these large topics, but in reality it preceded public discussion of globalization. As far as economic history is concerned, I would date the first signs as being books by John Hicks and Douglass North in 1969 and 1973 respectively.1 Their initial aim was not to find theorems immediately applicable to specific economies, the exercise was closer to pure scholarship. Nevertheless, as they thought, it may shed some light on the growth process as a whole. There may be a useful side effect in persuading economists...
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