Why did premodern Poland fail? (Highlight II)

Mikołaj Malinowski (Lund) is a quantitative economic historian. His expertise is in quantitative analyses of the role of markets and institutions in long-term economic growth of Eastern Europe. He has already constructed long-term series of real wages, GDP, and market conditions in Poland between the late middle ages and the early 19th century. This investigation revealed that the Polish economy expanded in the late middle ages and the 16th century but then contracted in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Further, Malinowski put forth the hypothesis that the economic contraction might have been a result of market segmentation. Building on a large body of price data, he showed that market conditions in Poland were improving in the 16th century but then declined in the 17th and 18th centuries. He proposed that the market crisis affected Polish economic development via two channels. First, the market segmentation led to an increase in the Malthusian pressure and, subsequently, to the decline in real wages. Second, he demonstrated that the adverse market conditions reinforced serfdom, which in the short term made the urban sector more resilient to the adverse conditions, but in the long term consigned the region to backwardness.

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This research has been published in top peer-reviewed journals in Economic history. His article ‘Serfs and the city: market conditions, surplus extraction institutions, and urban growth in early modern Poland’ has been awarded the Figuerola Prize for the best article published in the European Review of Economic History.

Currently, Malinowski researches the impact of political centralization and legal state capacity on economic development. States can either stimulate or inhibit economic performance. Proponents of the free-market see the coercive nature of states as a factor contributing to economic stagnation. New Institutional Economics argues for constraining governments to avoid harmful predation. However, states can also provide the institutional framework necessary for sustained economic growth. Malinowski analyses the role the parliament played in developing a domestic commodity market in the First Republic of Poland. His results indicate that legal state capacity was positively associated with domestic market integration. Conversely, anarchy, understood as executory, judiciary, and regulatory inaction of the central government was associated with a rise in the exchange costs.

Malinowski is also one of the founders of WEast: The Eastern European Economic History Initiative. He has developed a well-established series of periodic workshops in economic and social history that has received financial support of the European Society of Historical Economics. Information about WEast can be found on weast.info.

KEY RESEARCH:

Income and its distribution in preindustrial Poland. Cliometrica 11(3), 2017 (With Jan Luiten van Zanden)

Serfs and the city: market conditions, surplus extraction institutions and urban growth in Poland, 1500-1772. European Review of Economic History 20(2), 2016: 123-146

Little Divergence revisited: Polish living standards in a European perspective, 1500-1800. European Review of Economic History 20(3), 2016: 345-367

Market conditions in preindustrial Poland, 1500-1772. Economic History of Developing Regions 31(2), 2016

Economic consequences of anarchy; Legal state capacity and market integration in early modern Poland, mimeo.

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