CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Mondes américains : Looking for the roots of development in early trade statistics (18th-19th century)

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Looking for the roots of development in early trade statistics (18th-19th century)

Proposal for the sixteenth World Economic History Congress (Stellenbosch 2012)

Organizers: Loïc Charles (loic.charles@ined.fr) Guillaume Daudin (gdaudin@mac.com)

The structural changes of the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century, including the Industrial Revolution, are at the root of the development of our economic system. However, the on-going discussion about the Great Divergence between Europe and Asia (Pomeranz, Clark, etc.) shows that the nature and the immediate causes of these structural changes are still a matter of debate among economists and historians.

This session will explore these from the point of view of early trade statistics. This parallels the motivation of eighteenth and nineteenth state officials and economic authors who stressed again and again the importance of foreign trade for prosperity and the need to know it better. Indeed, foreign trade statistics are for many countries (including Europe, the US and the Ottoman Empire) among the earliest and most reliable economic data produced by past governments. They are available from mid-eighteenth century onward for most of these nations, sometimes even earlier (England, France), and present fairly continuous series. True, for a long time, external trade was seen and interpreted as a minor factor (if a factor at all) in the explanation of the British Industrial Revolution. As the impact of globalization on modern economies has proved that international trade has the potential to accelerate or impede the growth of national economies, this lack of interest in international trade has been called into question. In light of the importance of extra-European goods in fuelling an industrious revolution through the diversification of consumption and releasing the Malthusian constraints of pre-industrial, ‘organic’ economies, international trade is now being presented as a major dimension of the first industrial revolution.

Researchers have often used trade statistics of individual countries, but little comparative work has been done to assess their reliability and provide a more comprehensive view of the picture they give of early economies. This session will examine the construction of early international trade statistics and how they can be used to explore the issue of early development. It will go beyond the usual case studies in Western Europe and include contributions on Northern and Southern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and America. It is part of an on-going project that aims to provide a systematic collection and publication of trade data of the pre-statistical age.

Confirmed participants

Guido Alfani, University of Bocconi

Loïc Charles, INED / University of Paris-X / University of Reims

Ann Coenen, University of Antwerp

Guillaume Daudin, University of Lille-I / Sciences Po

Luca Mocarelli, University of Milan-Bicocca

Philipp R. Rössner, University of Leipzig

Donatella Strangio, University of Sapienza

Margrit Schulte Beerbuehl, University of Dusseldorf

Rubriques à consulter