November 7, 2006 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Africa, Asia, Books, Economics, Globalization, History, Latin America, Middle East, Research, Science & Technology | Leave a comment








James A. Robinson

Harvard University

Department of Government

N309 1737 Cambridge Street

Cambridge, MA


The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth:

A Comparative and Historical Analysis

Why did modern economic growth emerge in Europe first and not in China or Africa?  What were the roles of economic and political institutions, geography, and culture?  Why did modern economic growth spread to some places but not others and what accounts for the different paths that countries took into the modern world?  This course gives an overview and analysis of comparative economic development during the last half millennia and examines the emergence of modern economic growth in Europe after 1500 as well as the forces that led to the great divergence in prosperity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Also considered are colonialism, communism, fascism, and revolution.

The aim of this course is to get you to think about the big historical
processes that have shaped the modern world. This means we have to read quite a bit of history and there are fewer models and IV regressions than in a normal graduate economics
class. However, thinking and theorizing about these topics is more and more on the agenda of economists and so far we have barely scratched the surface of possibilities for using social science methods to study these issues. The interest in these topics comes, I think, from the recognition that if we want to understand, for instance, how Haiti went from being the richest country in the Americas (and maybe the World) in 1790, to the poorest today, we won’t make much progress using the Heston-Summers dataset. The current poverty and dysfunctional nature of Haitian society is the outcome of a long historical
process whose nature we’d like to understand and conceptualize.

For a course like this there is obviously not a textbook. For those of you
with little background you may find useful the overview provided by:

A Concise Economic History of the World: From Paleolithic Times to the Present (2002) by Rondo Cameron and Larry Neal, Oxford University Press.

Wonderfully erudite, full of information and thought provoking is:

The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

(1990) by Joel Mokyr, Oxford University Press.

I refer to specific chapters from this book as Mokyr (1990). An important and very interesting (if a little disorganized) book is:

The European Miracle, Eric Jones, Cambridge University Press,

Third Edition, 2003

Another little book which broaches many of the themes of this course and which you can read in two hours:

Explaining Long-Term Economic Change (1995)

by J.L. Anderson, Cambridge University Press.

Finally you will find the forthcoming book by Greg Clark very informative and provocative:

A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (2006)

Greg Clark, Princeton University Press.

I refer to specific chapters from this book below as Clark (2006).

Every week there is a specific book to read which will be related to the

topics we discuss. There are other books on the syllabus which I will talk about. The course will be graded on the basis of four essays during the semester which will force you to get on-top of the material discussed in the lectures (40%) and an exam in class on

December 18 (50%). The remaining 10% of the grade is allocated on the basis of class attendance.

September 18: Introduction and overview of the course. Some facts and

Book of the week: Diamond, Jared (1997) Guns, Germs and Steel, New

York; W.W. Norton and Co.

Maddison, Angus (2001) The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, Paris; OECD.

Clark, Gregory (2005) “The Condition of the Working Class in England,

1209-2003,” Journal of Political Economy, 113, 1307-1340.

Clark (2006) Chapters 1 and 3.

Mokyr (1990) Chapter 1.

September 20: Up to the Starting Line. What happened before 1500?

Gibson, Charles (1963) The Aztecs under Spanish Rule, New York;

Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1 “Tribes”.

Bockstette, Valerie, Arendam Chanda and Louis Putterman (2002) “States and Markets: The Advantage of an Early Start,” Journal of Economic Growth, 7, 347-369.

Lucas, Robert E. (2002) “Making a Miracle” in his Lectures on

Economic Growth, Cambridge; Harvard University Press.

September 25: The Medieval World: Malthusian, Absolutist, Feudal, Lacking Modern Economic Institutions, Technologically Stagnant….

Book of the week: Wong, R. Bin (1997) China Transformed: Historical
Change and the Limits of European Experience
, Ithaca; Cornell University Press.

Postan, M.M. (1966) “Medieval Agrarian Society in its Prime:

England,” in M.M. Postan ed. The Agrarian Life of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 of the Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Cambridge University Press; New York, pp. 549-632.

Greif, Avner, Paul Milgrom and Barry R. Weingast (1994) “Coordination,

Commitment and Enforcement: The Case of the Merchant Guild,” Journal of Political

Economy, 102, 745-776.

Veitch, John M. (1986) “Repudiations and Confiscations by the Medieval

State,” Journal of Economic History, 46, 31-36.

Clark (2006) Chapters 2-8.

Mokyr (1990) Chapter 3.

The classic detailed study of a society caught in the Malthusian trap, or

what he calls the (p. 4) “immense respiration of a social structure” is: Le Roy

Ladurie, Emmanuel (1974) The Peasants of Languedoc, Urbana; University of Illinois


September 27: Variations in the Medieval World. The Dutch, China.

Greif, Avner (1993) “Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions

in Early Trade: The Maghribi Traders’ Coalition,” American Economic Review,

83, 525-548.

De Vries, Jan and Ad van de Woude (1997) The First Modern Economy:

Success, Failure and the Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815, New York;

Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1-5, 13.

Further Reading: The Debate initiated by Wong and Pomeranz (coming shortly)

has begun to stimulate some very interesting empirical research. See the symposium in the

Journal of Asian Studies May 2002 with contributions by Philip Huang, James Lee and Robert


October 2: Transitions to the Modern World #1: The Black Death, 1492

Book of the week: Hatcher, John and Mark Bailey (2001) Modelling the

Middle Ages: The History and Theory of England’s Economic Development,

Oxford University Press; New York.

Brenner, Robert (1976) “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic

Development in Preindustrial Europe,” Past and Present, 70, 30-75.

Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2001) “The

Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation,” American

Economic Review, December, 91, 1369-1401.

Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2005) “Rise of

Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change and Economic Growth,” American

Economic Review, 95, 546-579.

Allen, Robert C. (2003) “Poverty and Progress in Early Modern

Europe,” Economic History Review, LVI, 403-443.

First Essay.

October 4: Transitions to the Modern World #2: The Reformation, The


Allen, Robert C. (1982) “The Efficiency and Distributional Consequences

of Eighteenth Century Enclosures,” Economic Journal, 92, 937-953.

Mokyr, Joel (2005) “The Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic

Growth,” Journal of Economic History, 65, 285-351.

Tawney, R.H. (1941) “The Rise of the Gentry,” Economic History

Review, 11, 1-38.

White, Lynn T. (1962) Medieval Technology and Social Change, New York;

Oxford University Press. Chapter 1.

October 9: The First Industrial Revolution #1 – Britain.

Book of the week: North, Douglass C. and Robert P. Thomas (1973) The Rise

of the Western World: A New Economic History, New York; Cambridge University


Mokyr, Joel (1999) “Introduction,” in Joel Mokyr ed. The British

Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective, 2nd edition,

Boulder; Westview Press.

Allen, Robert C. (2006) “The British Industrial Revolution in Global

Perspective,” http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/users/allen/unpublished/econinvent-3.pdf

North, Douglass C. and Barry R. Weingast (1989) “Constitutions and

Commitment: Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in 17th Century

England,” Journal of

History, 49, 803-832.

Clark (2006) Chapters 9-12.

October 11: The First Industrial Revolution #2 – Western European Patterns.

Acemoglu Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2005) “Liberty,

Equality, Fraternity and Industry: The Economic Legacy of the French Revolution,”

work in progress.

Tabellini, Guido (2005) “Culture and Institutions: Economic Development

in the Regions of Europe,” Unpublished.

Easterlin, Richard A. (1981) “Why isn’t the Whole World

Developed?” Journal of Economic History, 1-19.

October 16: The Great Divergence and the Reversal of Fortune.

Book of the week: Pommeranz, Kenneth (2000) The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World, Princeton; Princeton University Press.

Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2002) “Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, 1231-1294.

Allen, Robert C. (2001) “The Great Divergence in European Wages and

Princes from the Middle Ages to the First World War,” Explorations in Economic History, 38, 411-447.

Clark (2006) Chapters, 13-14.

October 18: When and why did Africa Diverge?

Austin, Gareth (2005) “Resources and Strategies South of the Sahara:

Long-Term Dynamics of African development, 1500-2000,” Unpublished, Department of Economic History, LSE.

Austen, Ralph A. and Daniel Headrick (1983) “The Role of Technology in the African past,” African Studies Review, 26, 163-184.

Goody, Jack (1971) Technology, Tradition and the State in Africa, New

York; Cambridge University Press.

Second Essay.

October 23: Africa. Why was Africa relatively backward in 1800?

Book of the Week: Feinstein, Charles H. (2005) An Economic History of
South Africa
: Conquest, Discrimination and Development, New York; Cambridge University Press.

Hopkins, Anthony G. (1973) An Economic History of West Africa, New
York; Addison Wesley Longman. Chapter 2.

Nunn, Nathan (2005) “Slavery, Institutional Development and Long-Run Growth in Africa, 1400-2000,” http://www.econ.ubc.ca/nnunn/empirical_slavery.pdf

October 25: Contradictions of colonial rule. Creating a Dual Economy.

Lewis, W. Arthur (1954) “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour,”

Manchester School of Social and Economic Studies, 22, 139-191.

Lundahl, Mats (1982) “The Rationale for Apartheid,” American

Economic Review, 72, 1169-1179.

October 30: India

Book of the week: Geertz, Clifford (1963) Peddlars and Princes: Social
Change and Economic Modernization in two Indonesian Towns
, Chicago; University of Chicago Press.

Roy, Tirthankar (2000) The Economic History of India, 1857-1947, New
York; Oxford University Press.

Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Lakshmi Iyer (2005) “History, Institutions and

Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India,” American Economic Review, 95, 1190-1213.

Iyer, Lakshmi (2004) “The Long-Term Impact of Colonial Rule: Evidence from India,” http://www.people.hbs.edu/liyer/iyer_colonial_oct2004.pdf.

November 1: Indonesia.

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2004) “Colonial State Formation and Patterns of

Development in Java, 1800-1913,’’ http://www.iisg.nl/research/jvz-colonialism.pdf.

Persistence and Change in Latin America.

November 6: Latin America. Population collapse, institutions and Malthus.

Organization of a colonial society.

Book of the week: Paige, Jeffrey M. (1997) Coffee and Power: Revolution
and the Rise of Democracy in Central America
, Harvard University Press; Cambridge.

Gibson, Charles (1963) The Aztecs under Spanish Rule, New York;

Cambridge University Press. Chapter 3 “The Encomienda”.

Engerman, Stanley L. and Kenneth L. Sokoloff (1997) “Factor Endowments, Institutions, and Differential Paths of Growth among New World Economies,” in Stephen H. Haber ed. How Latin America Fell Behind, Stanford; Stanford University Press.

Third Essay.

November 8:

Coatsworth, John H. (1978) “Obstacles to Economic Growth in

Nineteenth-Century Mexico,” American Historical Review, 83, 80-100.

Haber, Stephen H. (2002) “Political Institutions and Economic

Development: Lessons from the Economic Histories of Mexico and the United States,

1790-1914,” http://www.stanford.edu/~haber/papers/Haber,%20Political%20Institutions%20and%20Economic%20Developmen–ver.pdf

Engerman, Stanley L. and Kenneth L. Sokoloff (2005) “The Evolution of

Suffrage Institutions in the New World,” Journal of Economic History, 65,


Kelley, Jonathan and Herbert S. Klein (1981) Revolution and the Rebirth of Inequality, Berkeley; University of California Press. Chapters 3,4,6 and 7.

November 13: The Nature, Persistence and Decline of the Southern Equilibrium.

Book of the week: Markoff, John (1996) Waves of Democratization: Social Movements and Political Change, Thousand Oaks, California; Pine Forge Press.

Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson (2006) “Persistence of Power,

Elites and Institutions,” NBER Working Paper #12108.

David, Paul (1985) “Clio and the Economics of QWERTY,” American

Economic Review, 75, 332-337.

Bateman, Fred and Thomas Weiss (1981) A Deplorable Scarcity: The Failure of Industrialization in the Slave Economy, Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina


November 15: Dynamics of Political Institutions

Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson (2006) Economic Origins of

Dictatorship and Democracy, Cambridge University Press; New York. Chapter 1.

Markoff, John (1985) “The Social Geography of Rural Revolt at the

Beginning of the French Revolution,” American Sociological Review, 50, 761-781.

Mazzuca, Sebastián and James A. Robinson (2006) “Political Conflict and

Power-Sharing in the origins of Modern Colombia,” NBER Working Paper #12099.

Third Essay.

November 20: The Rise of the State.

Book of the (thanksgiving) week: Brewer, John (1988) The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1973, Harvard University Press; Cambridge.

O’Brien, Patrick K. (2005) “Fiscal and Financial Preconditions for

the Rise of British Naval Hegemony, 1485-1815,”


Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson (2000) “Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Growth, Inequality and Democracy in Historical Perspective”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, CXV, 1167-1199.

November 27: Paths into the 20th Century #1: Socialism.

Book of the week: Robert C. Allen (2003) From Farm to Factory,

Princeton; Princeton University Press.

Moore, Barrington (1966) Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Boston; Beacon Press.

Chapters 7,8, and 9.

Offer, Gur (1987) “Soviet Economic Growth, 1928-1985,” Journal

of Economic Literature, 25, 1767-1833.

Djankov, Simeon, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes and Andrei Shleifer (2003) “The New Comparative Economics,” Journal of Comparative

Economics, 31, 595-619.

Fourth Essay.

November 29: Paths into the 20th Century #2: Fascism.

Temin, Peter (1991) “Soviet and Nazi Economic Planning in the

1930s,” Economic History Review, 44, 573-593.

Overy, Richard J. (1996) The Nazi Economic Recovery, 1932-1938, New

York; Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, Jon S. (1988) “Was Italian Fascism a Developmental

Dictatorship?” Economic History Review, 41, 95-113.

December 4: The post-War Recovery.

Book of the week: Barry Eichengreen (2006) The European Economy since 1945: Coordinated Capitalism and Beyond, Princeton University Press.

December 6: The Argentine Equilibrium.

Adelman, Jeremy (1994) Frontier Development: Land, Labor and Capital on the Wheatlands of Argentina and Canada, 1890-1914, Oxford; Clarendon Press. Look at

Chapter 1.

Díaz-Alejandro, Carlos F. (1988) “100 Years of Argentine Economic
History plus some Comparisons too,” in Andrés Velasco ed. Trade, Development and the World Economy: Selected Essays of Carlos Díaz-Alejandro, New York; Basil Blackwell.

O’Donnell, Guillermo (1978) State and Alliances in Argentina,

1956-1976,” Journal of Development Studies, 15, 3-33.

Roe, Mark J. (1998) “Backlash,” Columbia Law Review, 98,


December 11: The African Disaster.

Killick, Tony (1978) Development Economics in Action; A Study of Economic Policies in Ghana, London; Heinemann. Chapter 2 “Development,

Disequilibrium and State Interventionism”, Chapter 3 “The Economic Strategies of Nkrumah and his Successors,” pp. 11-65, and Chapter 9 “The State as Entrepreneur” pp. 214-262.

Nkurunziza, Janvier and Floribert Ngaruko (2002) “Explaining Growth in Burundi: 1960-2000,” Centre for the Study of African Economies Working Paper 2002-03, Oxford University.

Dalton, George H. (1965) “History, Politics and Economic Development in Liberia,” Journal of Economic History, 25, 569-591.

December 13: The end of Poverty?

Mokyr (1990) Chapter 7.

Lucas, Robert E. (2002) “The Industrial Revolution: Past and
Future” in his Lectures on Economic Growth, Cambridge; Harvard University Press.

Rosenstein-Rodan, Paul (1961) “International Aid for Underdeveloped

Countries,” Review of Economics and Statistics, 43, 107-138.

Fukuyama, Francis (1989) “The End of History?”  The

National Interest, 16, 3-18..

December 18: Final Exam in Class.


TrackBack URI

Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: