Proposal preview

From pre-modern to modern economic growth in Europe and Asia

When Simon Kuznets set out in the 1960s to differentiate modern economic growth from pre-modern growth, there was very little quantitative work available on the period before the nineteenth century. Recently, economic historians have pushed back the frontiers of quantitative research into the medieval and early modern periods. Much of this work has been carried out within a framework of historical national accounting that both brings together and extends data on different parts of the economy and facilitates international comparisons of productivity and living standards for the period between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries. This session brings together researchers engaged in this work to highlight new insights into the transition to modern economic growth. Questions that will be tackled here include:

• To what extent was improved long run economic performance the result of a reduction in the rate and frequency of shrinking rather than an increase in the rate of growing? Is it possible that shorter and shallower slumps were just as important for the Industrial Revolution as any acceleration in the rate of innovation?
• How can the relationship between daily real wages, annual real wages and GDP per capita shed light on the industrious revolution? Has the neglect of data on annual wage contracts when the number of days worked per year increased substantially misled economic historians into thinking that GDP per capita and real wage trends are very different?
• How important was capital accumulation in the transition to modern economic growth? Was a pre-modern phase of capital deepening necessary before a period of total factor productivity growth as the economy made the transition to sustained economic growth?
• To what extent did the paths to modern economic growth differ between Asia and Europe? Was there really an alternative Asian pattern of labour intensive growth, or did European economies pass through a similar phase of labour intensification during the early modern period?


  • Stephen Broadberry, University of Oxford,, UK
  • Kyoji Fukao, Hitotsubashi University,, Japan

Session members

  • John Wallis, University of Maryland,
  • Jane Humphries, University of Oxford,
  • Jacob Weisdorf, University of Southern Denmark,
  • Sandra de Pleijt, Utrecht University,
  • Bishnupriya Gupta, University of Warwick,
  • Ye Ma, Groningen University,
  • Herman de Jong, Groningen University,
  • Tokihiko Settsu, Musashi University,
  • Jean-Pascal Bassino, IAO, ENS de Lyon,
  • Bas van Leeuwen, IISG, Amsterdam,
  • Yi Xu, Guangxi Normal University,
  • Hanhui Guan, Peking University,

Proposed discussant(s)

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