Two Great Divergences

Yesterday we mulled over the newest guesstimates of incomes over the past two thousand years. Let’s now look at some figures.

Table 1: GDP per capita estimates 1AD-1348

N. Italy

Spain

England

Holland

Byzantium

Iraq

Egypt

Japan

1

800

600

600

600

700

700

700

730

920

730

402

1000

600

820

600

1150

580

680

660

520

1280

670

527

1300

1588

864

892

610

1348

1486

907

919

876

580

The most notable feature: by 1300, incomes in Europe are ahead of elsewhere – the “great divergence” came early.

(Some notes on the table: Italian figures may be an over-estimate; Japan has the lowest; there was a peak or golden age in 700s Iraq under the Arab empire; all are higher than subsistence which is considered to be 250-300.)

Table 2: GDP per capita estimates 1348-1800

N. Italy

Holland

England

Spain

USA

Japan

India

Cape Colony

Ottoman Empire

1348

1486

816

919

901

527

580

1400

1716

1195

1205

819

527

1500

1503

1454

1134

846

660

1600

1336

2662

1167

892

581

574

793

1700

1447

2105

1540

814

900

629

729

1703

700

1800

1336

2609

2200

916

1296

641

648

959

740

The most notable feature of this table is that there was a second great divergence within Europe: steady growth in Holland, England, and USA versus no growth in the rest of Europe (and even decline in N. Italy).

Europe had higher incomes than elsewhere, Japan and Ottoman empire incomes were growing, but Indian incomes shrank. China in 1820: 600.

The task is to explain both the medieval divergence of Europe from Asia and then the early modern divergence of Holland and England from the rest. Is there any extant theory able to do this?

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  1. Pingback: The Northsea Miracle | Breviosity

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