All posts by npalma

About npalma

I am a faculty member at the Department of Economics, University of Manchester. My personal website is:

Why I have resigned from the editoral board of the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History

I have resigned from the editorial board of the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History. The main reason has been the editor’s failure to implement a data sharing and replication policy which is now increasingly standard is all good academic journals, and correctly so. For example, in the field of economic history, The Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, and Economic History Review all have such policies in place at present.

After some back and forth with the main editor, Maria Angeles Pons, which I ultimately felt was going nowhere, I resigned. The editor said that this was discussed with the rest of the editors and they agreed that they wanted to include this only as a recommendation, and not as a compulsory request for accepted papers. Last October I wrote the following email to the editor:

To me, this matter of forcing authors to make data from published articles available to the scientific community is non-negotiable. It is essential for replication and dissemination. Almost all serious journals now do this and, in my view, not doing it seriously compromises the credibility of the journals that don’t. There is no good reason not to implement this policy.

It also seems to be that this, as well as changes to the instructions to Authors and other key decisions concerning the Journal (including choice of replacement editors and board members), should be jointly discussed with the Editorial Board and not simply decided by the Editors by themselves.

Accordingly, I would like to encourage you and the editors to rethink these critical decisions for the integrity of the scientific process.

Allow me to kindly and respectfully inform you that if the current policies do not change, I regret that I will resign from the board on Friday February 3rd, 2023. If so, I will also not be available to provide any further referee reports to this journal after that date.

The editor later asked for more time and I agreed, giving them another month. But ultimately nothing relevant changed as subsequent email exchanges were not fruitful. I believe that just recommending that authors do this but leaving it to their discretion is not enough. Yet to me, this matter is critical. I have sometimes wanted to inspect data which is not available anywhere, for example because the authors left academia or are otherwise unresponsive to emails. And there have been recent reports suggesting that, unfortunately:

“Most researchers don’t share their data. If you’ve ever read the words ‘data is available upon request’ in an academic paper, and emailed the authors to request it, the chances that you’ll actually receive the data are just 7 percent. The rest of the time, the authors have lost access to their data, changed emails, or are too busy or unwilling.”

I showed the above report to the editor. The follow-up discussion dragged for weeks, and as mentioned, I initially delayed my resignation while I tried to understand if we were getting somewhere. I explained and insisted that there was no reason to delay as change in policy could be implemented for free due to the existence of free permanent data repositories like Zenodo or openicpsr. At one point the editor said that the decision was transitory but I insisted that it was not clear how for long the current policy might be “transitory” for, and that it would risk becoming a “permanent transition process”. Still, the editor insisted that this was the decision for now, without providing any credible path to reform.

As in practice nothing has changed I have informed the editor of my resignation, effective immediately (though they’ll still have to update the webpage to take my name out). I have also informed the editor of my unwillingness to write any more referee reports for the journal while the current policy remains. As I informed the editor, I believe that making my reasons public is better than allowing for speculation by others concerning my reasons for resigning, and it may encourage future editors of this academic journal to be more serious about this important matter.

Program for the “Big counterfactuals of macro-political history” conference and graduate student workshop

Here is the conference program for the Arthur Lewis Lab conference #2 on “Big counterfactuals of macro-political history”, previously announced here, which will take place at the University of Manchester on March 24, and also for the associated graduate students workshop (which will take place on the prior day). The conference organizers are Guillaume Blanc, Nicholas Gachet, and Nuno Palma. Please note that the conference programs below are preliminary and subject to change.

UPDATE 23/03/2023: due to a cancelled flight, Giorgio Chovelli will not be able to make it tomorrow, and I will instead present American treasure and the decline of Spain (with C. J. Charotti and J. P. Santos)

Call for papers: “Productivity Revolutions: Past and Future”

Conference to be held at the University of Manchester

Arthur Lewis Lab Conference #3

Part of the CEPR Economic History programme. This event is jointly organised by the Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development, The Productivity Institute, and The Manchester School at the University of Manchester.

The conference will take place at the Manchester Alliance Business School.


June 16, 2023

Note: This conference is expected to take place offline only.

Conference title:

Productivity Revolutions: Past and Future

Keynote speakers:

Michela Giorcelli (UCLA) and John Van Reenen (LSE & MIT)

Conference organizers:

Guillaume Blanc, Nuno Palma and Bart van Ark, University of Manchester.

Conference theme:

The conference will focus on long-term productivity change and its implications for growth and development in the past, present, or future. Topics include: technology and innovation; skill formation; management & organisation competencies; international comparisons; sector studies; education and skill formation.

Paper submissions:

We now invite proposals for presentation at the conference (deadline March 31st). We are looking presenters to be a mix of senior and junior scholars, including PhD and postdocs.

You can apply with only a title and abstract using this link. Complete manuscripts or a commitment for a draft paper by the time of the conference have a higher chance to get accepted into the program. A poster session is likely to also take place.  When sending your proposal, please let us know if you are planning to then submit the paper to the special issue of the Manchester School associated with this conference.

Special issue of the Manchester School

A selection of the papers presented will be invited to be submitted for publication as a special issue of the Manchester School. This special issue will have the same title as the conference, i.e. Productivity Revolutions: Past and Future. The papers will be subject to a fast-track refereeing process and a special issue is expected to be released prior to the end of the year. Nuno Palma will serve as guest editor.

Costs and funding:

There will be no conference fee and coffee/tea and lunch will be covered by the organisers. We have also secured some funding for travel and accommodation costs for graduate students who do not have funds from their own institutions.


We suggest Hyatt Regency as the accommodation in-campus, which is next door to the conference venue. For those looking for budget accommodation, we suggest Luther King House.

Social visit

On the day after the conference, there will be an optional visit to Ancoats, followed by lunch at the Curry Mile.


March 31 – deadline to send us a paper proposal

April 14 – we will communicate the accepted proposals (and possibly a waiting list)

April 28 – program will be posted

May 1 – registration opens

The University of Manchester

Postdoc opportunities at the University of Manchester

The Simon and Hallsworth fellowships are now open for application:

·       Hallsworth Research Fellowship

·       Hallsworth Research Fellowship in Chinese Political Economy

·       Hallsworth Research Fellowship with focus on External Engagement and Impact

·       Simon Research Fellowship

All of these are suitable for economic historians. Join our growing group at the Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development!

The closing date is 16th March. Be sure to get in touch by email with Guillaume Blanc and/or me as soon as possible if interested. (Please do check the announced eligibility requirements carefully before writing, though.)

The University of Manchester

Visit to the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill in Macclesfield

As readers of this blog know, I take every year my economic history students to the Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester: a large and important cotton factory of the First Industrial Revolution.

But of course, the Manchester region also had other clusters, such as pottery cluster in Stoke-on-Trent (affectionately known as “The Potteries”), and a silk cluster in the region of Macclesfield (where a couple of modern silk-related factories in fact still operate today).

So, in a recent weekend, I visited the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill in Macclesfield. The Paradise Mill had its origins in the early nineteenth century and operated until the 1980s. Visiting was a great experience, and I share some pictures here.

The raw input:

Some general info:

Making the punch cards. These binary instructions define the patterns, and of course influenced modern computers:

An example of the resulting pattern (notice the small upper-left square):

Notice how detailed and fine this could become:

The machines:

The “code” and resulting pattern in a pillow:

Feeding the “code”:

Lewis Lab Graduate Student Workshop at the University of Manchester

This workshop organized by the Arthur Lewis Lab for Comparative Development is targeted mainly at economic history and comparative development PhD students (but postdocs are welcome to apply as well). It will take place on March 23, the day before this conference, so it is designed so that presenters can then also participate in the conference on the next day, as poster presenters or listeners. There will be faculty attending the workshop including (among others) Dan Bogart (UC-Irvine), James Fenske (Warwick), and James Robinson (University of Chicago).

We aim to provide high-level interactions and feedback on student presentations, in a welcoming intellectual environment. Funding for travel and accommodation of accepted PhD student presenters is available.

Deadline to apply: February 10. See instructions below.

Crowding in during the Seven Years’ War

Carolyn Sissoko (University of the West of England) and I have released a short paper with the title “Crowding in during the Seven Years’ War“. It is available as a CEPR discussion paper (gated), and it is also in the following link as a University of Manchester discussion paper (open access). The abstract is here:

We present a detailed study of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) using a new dataset based on the Bank of England minutes. We argue that the war and associated Bank of England actions led to a transformation of the financial system. Additionally, while there was short-term crowding out of private investment when interest rates rose due to the issue of war-related government debt, in the long-run there was crowding in: higher government spending led to an increase in private sector investment.

Here’s a picture of the two of us, taken last year in front of the Arthur Lewis Building in Manchester:

“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.