“Economic History of China in the Long Run”: photos and videos of the conference

Last month we had the “Economic History of China in the Long Run” conference, organized by the Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development (with support from other UoM entities as well as the British Academy) and it seems fair to say was a success. In the day before the conference, there was a small informal dinner. Then on the conference day, we had the conference itself, followed by dinner. In the second day, some of us went to the Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, followed by an informal lunch. Below are some photos (some of these photos were taken by Meng Wu, others by me).

There are also videos of the two keynotes, posted here (Richard von Glahn) and here (Steve Broadberry). These videos inaugurate the youtube channel of the Lewis Lab! Unfortunately, due to technical issues with the camera, we were not able to record the opening address by Melanie Xue and closing addresse by Debin Ma. However, the following recorded interviews are available: Debin Ma, Melanie Xue, Hilton Root, Nuno Palma, Richard von Glahn, Jack Goldstone, Patrick O’Brien, Stephen Broadberry, Meng Wu.

Allow me to finish by apologizing to any PhD students whose poster I may have missed in their presence. I was so busy during the conference, with so many requests for my time, that I did not have the time to individually discuss all posters with every poster presenter. If that was the case with you, I apologize, but rest assured that I did read at every poster, as did most conference participants I’m sure! Well done everyone.

In the next day, we visited the Quarry Bank Mill. Here’s Richard inspecting some cotton ready to enter a spinning mule to produce texttiles!

Girls lost the power

The explanatory power to explain the historical Western European Litte Divergence, that is.

The paper:

Historical gender discrimination does not explain comparative Western European development: evidence from Portugal, 1300-1900

by Jaime Reis, Lisbeth Rodrigues and mysef, is now forthcoming at Explorations in Economic History. We show that women’s relative social and economic position was no worse in Portugal than in Northwestern European countries, hence the cause of Portugal’s development failure lies elsewhere. I’ve previously discussed this paper here and here, and we wrote this voxeu column about it as well.

The Little Divergence was the economic and political divergence that characterized the relative decline of southern Europe, which was clear by 1800. Spain and Portugal, previously some of the Europe’s richest regions, were in clear decline for a while, and at the same time Northwestern Europe was was growing and would industrialize fast in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Jan Luiten van Zanden and co-authors have for years argued that there was an “horizontal Hajnal line”: the south of Europe, they argue, had social norms at the family level which did not lead to a strong European Marriage Pattern like Northwestern Europe did, where it encouraged human capital accumulation and having other benefits. This is known as the Girl Power hypothesis, after a well-known 2010 EHR paper by Tine de Moor and van Zanden. Him and co-authors have continued to argue along these lines in recent years, including in a major book. In a recent article, called “Two Worlds of Female Labor”, Sandra de Pleijt and Jan Luiten van Zanden argued that “In the south of Europe women earned about 50 per cent of the wage of unskilled male labourers, a ratio that seems to have been fixed by custom”, while this ratio was higher in Northern Europe.

But in fact it wasn’t. Tracy Dennison and Sheilagh Ogilvie in 2014 ahd already pointed out that the regions of Europe where the EMP measured by age of marriage was strongest did not in fact growh more, and Drelichman and Agudo in a recent paper about Toldeo (Spain) showed that gender wage gaps there in fact were comparable to those of northwestern Europe. Our evidence for Portugal confirms this as well.

Sorry, Jan Luiten & co-authors, but the Dutch were not culturally special, as you think. They were just western europeans like all the others. This is of course not to deny that the EMP and relative equality of women – as compared with other parts of the world – in Europe was not an advantage: it must have been. But this must be endogenous to other factors, and cannot explain first-order differences in economic sucess within Western Europe: The Little Divergence. In Western Europe, the main way women were discriminated against concerned the range of professions that they were allowed to take. The same situation also occurred in Northwestern Europe, including the North Sea area, and there is no evidence that it did so to a lower degree than elsewhere in Western Europe.

If family-level cultural factors or social norms do not explain the Little Divergence, then something else needs to. As readers of this blog may know, to me the true explanation resides in political institutions, which worsened in Spain and Portugal over the early modern period (at different times), but in both cases due to a resource curse problem.

Sources: see our text.

Gender wage gaps for unskilled workers (f/m), 1271-1900:

Sources: see our text.

The Arthur Lewis Lab Postdoctoral Fellowship

Apply to join us!

This is a 3-year position with plenty of time for research and time to interact with our growing group at the Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development of the University of Manchester. We will recruit someone working on economic growth, economic history, historical political economy, and/or related fields. The Lewis Lab already has more than a dozen researchers working on these fields. We have a dedicated seminar and two annual conferences, an annual visiting professorship program, in addition to all the other activities of the department. In addition to research opportunities, for the postdoc there is also the (optional) possibility to teach (up to 20 hours per annum). The fellowship is designed to allow early career researchers to develop their research portfolio and to strengthen their future position in the academic job market.

You can find details and instructions to apply here. Please note you need to apply both via the UoM link (the previous link) and also via EJM. Please carefully read and follow the instructions on the EJM ad. All is explained there. There are also some additional non-monetary perks (such as paid meals) and a research allowance of around £2,000 per year available.

The deadline for applications is 6:00pm (GMT) 2 December 2022.

Some of the current Lewis Lab members
The Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development, at the University of Manchester

Anatomy of a premodern state

Here’s a new working paper, joint with Leonor Freire Costa and António Henriques, and available as a open access here. This is a piece we have been working on for many years and it’s great to finally have it out. We show that historically, Portugal was not a weak state. [This is unlike what scholars such as Godinho, Hespanha or Justino argued, and in the case of Spain, Regina Grafe, who argued that early modern Spain was a weak state. Personally, I long suspected that these arguments could not be right, for several reasons including the historical fiscal capacity measures of Karaman and Pamuk; furthermore, more recently the implications or Grafe’s arguments for market integration have also not been confirmed in recent work by Carlos Santiago-Caballero and Sandra Cermeño.

Here’s the abstract for our new paper:

We provide a blueprint for the construction of historical state capacity measures for premodern states, which has several advantages over the state of the art. First, we argue that nominal GDP is the best deflator for state revenues. Second, expenditure patterns have to be considered in order to assess the changing state capacity. Third, we argue that local-level revenues matter when establishing state capacity, even if their overall contribution appears small. As an application, we tackle the controversial case of Portugal (1367–1844) and show that the country had a relatively high fiscal capacity and its state capacity increased over time as military expenses rose, whereas redistribution favoring the elites and the royal household decreased. This means that state capacity was not an issue in Portugal’s dismal economic performance.

Figure: Central expenditure breakdown, 1473–1812
Lisbon in the seventeenth century

A Short History of the Bank of England: Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast

You can hear my participation in Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast here. Thanks to Dan for the invitation.

For anyone interested in knowing more, this is the paper (joint with Patrick O’Brien) recently published in the EHR and motivated this participation, available in open access here. This was the main paper underlying our discussion, though in the podcast Dan and I also discuss monetary politcy and the role of central banks in more recent times.

p.s. I heard the recording and take the opportunity to mention that around minute 17.43, when I say “sixteenth century”, I obviously meant to say “eighteenth century”. And just before the break when I said “lending”, I meant “borrowing”: though this should be clear from the context. That was my fault of course: perils of live recordings!

Conference program: The Chinese Economy in the Long Run

Here’s the program for this conference, previously announced as a call for papers here. The program below is preliminary and subject to change. Please check this website for the latest updates.

Part of the CEPR Economic History programme, and with support from the British Academy, the Manchester China Institute, and the Arthur Lewis Lab, University of Manchester.


October 21, 2022

Conference title:

The Chinese Economy in the Long Run


The University of Manchester

Room: Arthur Lewis Building Boardroom 2.016 (second floor)

Note: This conference is expected to take place offline only. The program below is preliminary and subject to change.

Conference organizers:

Nuno Palma, Xiaobing Wang, and Meng Wu, University of Manchester


9.00-9.40. Opening address: Melanie Xue (LSE), Culture, Institutions and the Long-Term Development of China

9.40-10.00. Coffee break

10.00-10.20 Time for interaction with poster presenters

10.20-10.40. Hilton L. Root (GMU), Religion and the Great Divergence of East and West: The Persistent Effects of Networks of Church and State in the History of China and Europe

10.40-11.00. Wolfgang Keller (University of Colorado), Human Capital Strategies for Recovery from Big Shocks: The Case of the Fall of the Ming (with Carol H. Shiue)

11.00-12.00 Keynote: Stephen Broadberry (Oxford), Technological Progress and the Great Divergence

12.00-13.00. Lunch

13.00-14.00 Roundtable: Was there a scientific and institutional Great Divergence prior to the Great Divergence of incomes? – with Jack Goldstone (GMU), Stephen Morgan (Nottingham), Patrick O’Brien (LSE) and Meng Wu (Manchester)

14.00-14.20. Nuno Palma (University of Manchester), The rise and fall of paper money in Yuan China, 1260-1368 (with Hanhui Guan and Meng Wu)

14.20-14.40. Kevin Zhengcheng Liu (University of Hong Kong), Commitment Failure within Bureaucracy: Why a Centralization Reform Backfired in Late Imperial China (with Yu Hao)

14.40-15.00. Alejandra Irigoin (LSE), China inside out: explaining silver flows in the UK-Asia triangular trade 1820s-1870 (with Atsushi Kobayashi)

15.00-16.00 Keynote: Richard von Glahn (UCLA), Modalities of the Fiscal State in Imperial China in Comparative Perspective

16.00-16.20 Coffee break

16.20-16.40. Meng Wu (University of Manchester), Adjustments and Vicissitudes: The Indirect Issuance of Banknotes in Republican China, 1915-1945 (with X. Dong, D. Ma, and N. Palma)

16.40-17.00. Peter E. Hamilton (Lingnan University, Hong Kong), The Book which Increases the Human Efficiency: The Introduction of Taylorism in China

17.00-17.20. Li Yang (DIW Berlin). The Making of China and India in the 21st Century: Long Run Human Capital Accumulation from 1900 to 2020 (with Nitin Kumar Bharti)

17.20-18.00 Closing address: Debin Ma (University of Oxford), Chinese economic history: taking stock

19.00 dinner in a restaurant nearby


Ying Dai (University of Cambridge), By-employment in the Yangtze Valley in the long twentieth century

Zhao Dong (University of Oxford), Chinese Agricultural Development and Output Per Capita 1161-1330

Christoph Hess (University of Cambridge), The Choice to Leave: Family Constraints on Geographical Mobility in Late Imperial China

Bin Huang (University of Zurich), Making the Pearls of the Orient: Treaty Port, Concession, and the Rise of the Modern Economy in China, 1840-1920 (with James Kai-sing Kung)

Xizi Luo (LSE), Parental Dictates: Marriage Sorting and Social Mobility in Imperial China, 1614-1854

Chenyang Qi (Central University of Finance and Economics, China), The fate of the Taiping Rebellion: the mechanics of building government mobilization capacity

Jinlin Wei (University of Warwick), The fiscal foundation of bureaucratic power sharing in the late Qing China (with Tianyang Xi)

Runzhuo Zhai (University of Oxford). Toward the Great Divergence: Economic Growth in Yangzi Delta, 1393-1953

Qingrou Zhao (University of Edinburg), The 1882-1883 Shanghai Financial Crisis Revisited: An Analysis From the Perspective of Self-Strengthening Enterprises

The University of Manchester

Pictures of the “Economic Consequences of the Age of Liberal Revolutions, 1810-1848” conference

We had a great conference last week (despite a lamentable boycotting attempt). At least I enjoyed a lot learning from and discussing with colleagues, and I believe others did too.

Given Deirdre McCloskey’s visit to Lisbon for this conference, she and I also debated in the day prior to the conference at an event organized by “Instituto +Liberdade”. That too was a fun event, and it was interesting to see how much of a statist I am – at least by comparison with Deirdre! (who has been my friend for 15 years, and from whom I have learned so much). The discussion illustrated what I already knew: that Deirde is a good old-fashioned classical liberal while if I must quickly summarize my political views, I’d say I lie about half way between classical liberalism and social democracy (with the distance to each depending on the topics). There will be a video of the debate, which I’ll post here when made available by the organizers.

Here are the photos from both events, with a focus on the academic conference:

Conference dinner – most participants ate grilled sardines!
Leandro Prados de la Escosura and António Castro Henriques both could not attend in person last minute due to personal reasons, so presented via Zoom instead
Maria Stella Chiaruttini presenting “Fateful and forgotten: Liberal revolutions and financial development in nineteenth-century Italy”
Guillaume Daudin presenting “The effects of the revolution and warfare on the French economy, 1789-1815” (joint with Loic Charles and Silvia Marzagalli)
Nuno Palma presenting “Anatomy of a premodern state” (joint work with L. Costa and A. Henriques)
Roundtable with Luciano Amaral (Nova SBE), Maria Stella Chiaruttini (University of Vienna), Guillaume Daudin (Université Paris Dauphine), Deirdre McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Renato Pistola presenting “From good intentions to institutional failure: Portugal, 1834-1891” (joint with N. Palma)
Arnaud Deseau presenting “The most important event? The long-run impact of the dissolution of the French monasteries”
Arnaud Deseau presenting “The most important event? The long-run impact of the dissolution of the French monasteries”
José Luís Barbosa presenting “The liberal reforms and the Portuguese municipality: the case of Coimbra (1790-1850)”
José Luís Barbosa presenting “The liberal reforms and the Portuguese municipality: the case of Coimbra (1790-1850)”
Guilherme Lambais presenting “Living standards in Imperial Brazil” (joint with N. Palma)
Deirdre McCloskey’s closing address, “Liberalism Caused the Great Enrichment”
Deirdre McCloskey’s closing address, “Liberalism Caused the Great Enrichment”
Another picture from the conference dinner
On the day prior to the conference, Deirdre McCloskey and Nuno Palma debated at “Instituto +Liberdade”
Debate of the day prior to the conference
Debate organized by “Instituto +Liberdade” the day prior to the conference, taking place at “42 Lisboa”. Thanks to Pedro Santa Clara for introducing Deirdre McCloskey and me to the audience!

The rise and fall of paper money in Yuan China, 1260–1368

Hanhui Guan (Peking University), Meng Wu (Manchester) and I have a new working paper with the above title (available in open access here). We have been working on this for some time, and we are happy that we finally have the first version of our paper ready. In my view, the case of historical China is not only interesting in its own right but provides a helpful mirror to understanding later Western European monetary and financial history better, too.

The abstract for our new paper is here:

Following the Mongol invasion of China, the Yuan (1260–1368) dynasty was the first political regime in history able to deploy paper money as the sole legal tender. Drawing on a new dataset on money issues, imperial grants, and prices, we show that a silver standard initially consolidated the Chinese currency market. However, persistent fiscal pressures eventually compelled rulers to ease the monetary standard, and a fiat standard was adopted, leading to high inflation levels. We show that military pressure generated fiscal demands which led to over-issuance, and we reject the role of excessive imperial grants in triggering the over-issue of money.

Annual nominal money issues, 1260–1355
Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty
1 guan note Zhongtong Yuanbao Jiaochao (中统交钞) issued by the Yuan

Goldilocks: American precious metals and the Rise of the West

My frequent coauthors Yao Chen and Felix Ward from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and I have released a new working paper with the above title (link here).

Here’s the abstract:

We estimate the contribution of the American precious metal windfall to West Europe’s growth performance in the early modern period. The exogenous nature of American money arrivals allows for identification of monetary effects. We find that more than half of West Europe’s growth can be attributed to American precious metals, whose arrival promoted trade intensification and capital formation. Our findings place West Europe’s second-stage receivers in a particularly fortunate goldilocks zone that enjoyed monetary injections, while being insulated against the transport-loss induced financial crises that caused persistent damage to first-stage receiver Spain.

Real GDP response to doubling of the money-inflow-to-stock ratio

Conference program: Economic Consequences of the Age of Liberal Revolutions, 1810-1848

Here’s the program for this conference, previously announced as a call for papers here. The program below is preliminary and subject to change. Check this website for the latest updates.


September 23, 2022

Conference title:

Economic Consequences of the Age of Liberal Revolutions: 1810-48


Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa

Room: Auditório Sedas Nunes

Notes: This conference will take place offline only.

Conference organizers:

Nuno Palma (U. Manchester, ICS-UL and CEPR) and Renato Pistola (ICS-UL).


9.00-10.00. Keynote: Leandro Prados de la Escosura (Carlos III), The Legacy of the Napoleonic Wars: Some Reflections

10.00-10.30. Coffee break

10.30-11.00. Maria Stella Chiaruttini (University of Vienna), Fateful and forgotten: Liberal revolutions and financial development in nineteenth-century Italy

11.00-11.30. Guillaume Daudin (Université Paris Dauphine), The effects of the revolution and warfare on the French economy, 1789-1815 (joint with Loic Charles and Silvia Marzagalli)

11.30-12.00. Nuno Palma, Anatomy of a premodern state (joint with Leonor Costa and António C. Henriques)

12.00-13.00. Lunch

13.00-14.00. Roundtable: Luciano Amaral (Nova SBE), Maria Stella Chiaruttini (University of Vienna), Guillaume Daudin (Université Paris Dauphine), Deirdre McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The roundtable of the Economic Consequences of the Age of Liberal Revolutions: 1810-48 conference will debate how the economic and institutional historiography has analysed the impact of revolution in the Iberian context in the last decades. The speakers will be challenged to reflect on the following questions: what legacies remained from the Ancient Regime?; what new liberal/constitutional elements were introduced in the first decades after the Revolution?; moreover, was the Revolution truly revolutionary or did it fail in its intentions? The debate will focus not only on how the literature has traditionally considered these matters but also on what new comparative approaches bring to the discussion. The intenational speakers who will participate will be particularly helpful towards this comparative goal. We aim for a comparative discussions in the spirit of R. Stites’s Four Horsemen: Riding to Liberty in Post-napoleonic Europe, but with a more quantitative aspect to them, as in e.g. Patrick O’Brien’s recent edited volume, The Crucible of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Warfare and European Transitions to Modern Economic Growth.

14.00-14.30. António Castro Henriques (Universidade do Porto), When did Portugal become a constitutional regime?

14.30-15.00. Renato Pistola (ICS-UL), From good intentions to institutional failure: Portugal, 1834-1891 (joint with N. Palma)

15.00-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-16.00. Arnaud Deseau (UC-Louvain), The most important event? The long-run impact of the dissolution of the French monasteries

16.00-16.30. José Luís Barbosa (Universidade de Coimbra), The liberal reforms and the Portuguese municipality: the case of Coimbra (1790-1850)

16.30-17.00. Guillherme Lambais (ICS-UL), Living standards in Imperial Brazil (joint with N. Palma)

17.00-18.00 Closing Address: Deirdre McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago), Liberalism Caused the Great Enrichment

18.00 conference ends

19.00 dinner in a restaurant nearby (“Entre Copos”).