Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Sex ratios and missing girls in 19th-century Greece

The “missing girls” phenomenon, arising from discriminatory practices that result in excess female mortality early in life, has been especially dramatic in China and India. Analyzing sex ratios, the number of boys per hundred girls, in 19th-century Europe, recent research suggests that these practices could have also been present in some European regions. One of the countries where the relative number of boys was more extreme is Greece, so our current work sheds more light on this particular case.

The previous images refer to The Murderess, a short story written by Alexandros Papadiamantis in 1903, that provides a bleak picture of the fate of Greek women at that time. Reflecting on her own life, the central female character realizes that there is nothing worse than being born a woman and this thought leads her to kill a series of young girls, including her new-born niece, almost as a mercy to save them from a gloomy future. This story is probably an exaggeration but the evidence we have gathered suggests that the mortality rates of Greek girls was much higher than what would have been normal in the absence of discriminatory practices.

Apart from abundant anecdotal evidence on son preference and the discrimination suffered by many girls, the Greek population censuses in the late-19th- and early-20th-century clearly point to the existence of “missing girls”.  During the period 1879-1920, the sex ratio under 5 years old ranged between 106.7 and 109.5 boys per hundred girls. These figures are abnormally high because, as explained here, the gender-neutral sex ratio should be lower than 101-102. The quality of Greek birth registers was lacking but this source also points in the same direction: the sex ratio at birth was around 111 and 119 boys per hundred girls in 1860 and 1884, respectively. Greek families also seem to have abandoned many more girls than boys, at least in the foundling hospitals studied in Athens, Hermoupolis and Kephallenia.

Although it is plausible that the under-reporting of girls might be behind these figures, there are different reasons that preclude this possibility. Firstly, as already mentioned, there is abundant qualitative evidence suggesting that discriminatory practices were not exceptions but the norm. Moreover, the 1880 census itself explains that the statistical authorities were expecting boys, not girls, to be under-reported due to the military purpose of the census. In addition, if under-registration was an issue, it was surely more important at birth or during the first year of life. The Greek sex ratios, however, increased as children grew older. The next figure shows how the sex ratio of children aged 5-9 was higher than that of younger children (aged 0-4), especially up to 1920. This evidence not only suggests that female under-reporting was not an issue, but also that gender discrimination continued unduly increasing female mortality rates as girls got older.

Sex ratios at age 0-4 and 5-9, 1879-2001

The sex ratios of different age-groups also correlate quite well at the province level. If under-registration was affecting some areas, girls would eventually show up in the census when older, thus reducing the correlation coefficient. This was not the case. Lastly, the contemporaneous US censuses (where most Greeks migrated during this period) also confirmed that the relative number of boys and girls born in the US from Greek parents was very similar to the figures found in the motherland censuses. 

What was happening? It is difficult to be precise but it is likely that both female infanticide and different degrees of neglect during infancy and childhood unduly increased female mortality early in life. Regarding the latter and in a context of generalized poverty where infant and child mortality was really high, an unequal allocation of resources within the household in the way that young girls were fed or treated when ill, as well as in the amount of work which they were entrusted with, was likely to have resulted in more girls dying from the combined effect of malnutrition and illness. It seems also that discriminatory practices were stronger (or had a clearer effect due to lack of resources) in large families.

Why were Greek girls discriminated? Although there is not just one factor behind this behaviour, the most important one is probably the dowry. Marrying their daughters was one of the main duties of Greek parents and this was connected to how generous the dowry was. In poor families, and especially in those with several daughters, girls were a heavy burden. The analysis of the regional variation in sex ratios also indicates that excess female mortality was higher in those areas where female labour opportunities were scarce. In any case, our work stresses that gender discrimination constituted an important problem in 19th-century Greece, an issue that has long been neglected despite all the hints that pointed in that direction.

Beltrán Tapia, F.J. and Raftakis, M., ‘All little girls, the bad luck!’ Sex ratios and gender discrimination in 19th-century Greece, EHES Working Paper 172 (November 2019).
A Spanish versión of this post was published in Nada es Gratis in December 4, 2019.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

“Cholera Forcing” and the Urban Water Infrastructure: Lessons from Historical Berlin

Kalle Kappner

    Over the last decade, the role of modern water supply and sewage disposal infrastructure in the West’s 19th and early 20th century urban mortality transition has attracted renewed attention among economic historians and development economists (Harris and Helgertz, 2019). A robust conclusion of this literature is that access to tap water and sanitary sewers was crucial in turning cities from hotspots of infectious diseases to evermore healthy places. However, the causal mechanisms linking patterns of declining mortality and expanding access to modern water infrastructure are still poorly understood. In particular, should the emergence of urban sanitation be seen as a rational, indeed inevitable reaction to the 19th century’s recurrent epidemic shocks and elevated urban mortality rates, an idea that Christopher Hamlin (2009) termed “cholera forcing”?

    In a recent EHES working paper, I retrace Berlin’s long and bumpy road to safe water conditions, challenging popular narratives that interpret modern water infrastructure as an efficient, scientifically motivated answer to Europe’s recurrent cholera epidemics since 1831. To the contrary, Berlin’s experience suggests a highly complicated relationship between urban epidemics, their statistical, proto-epidemiological examination, and water management reform. Far from serving as “our old ally”, an attribute later assigned by urban hygienist Robert Koch, cholera turned out not only a weak motivator, but in fact an ambiguous one.

    “The Great World Pestilence” in Berlin

    Quite representative in the Western European context, 19th century Berlin suffered from a characteristic “urban mortality penalty”, partly fuelled by periodic outbreaks of epidemic diseases. Cholera was not the most fatal, but arguably the scariest and most unpredictable member of Berlin’s disease panorama, amounting to almost 19,000 documented deaths in between 1831 and 1873.

    figure 1 a

    figure 1 b
    Figure 1a and 1b: Cholera incidence and Crude Death Rates in Berlin, 1830-1880

    In hindsight, it is not hard to understand why cholera raged in a repeated, yet seemingly erratic fashion. Berlin had experienced rapid population growth since the 1850s, bringing about the typical problems of increasing density, pollution, congestion and the consequent spread of infectious diseases. Commercial travelers repeatedly carried vibrio cholerae from the East and introduced the bacillus into the local cesspools, which in turn contaminated the water of nearby wells, spreading the diseases among the population. Berlin’s international connections, dense living conditions and inadequate sanitary conditions rendered the city an ideal transitional habitat.

    On Unwanted Tap Water and Miasmatic Plague Tubes

    Roughly 25 years after its first acquaintance with cholera, Berlin began a lengthy path to safe water conditions, substituting an essentially medieval infrastructure based on pump wells, cesspits, open gutters and the river Spree’s natural absorption capabilities by relatively clean tap water and sanitary sewers that disposed waste in the rural hinterlands.

    figure 2a

    figure 2b

    Figure 2a and 2b: Share of lots connected to the tap water supply and sewers in Berlin, 1850-1900

    Initially, recurrent epidemic shocks played hardly any motivating role. By the 1850s, it was aesthetic rather than sanitary concerns that brought the construction of a modern tap water network on the municipal agenda. However, a combination of misaligned economic incentives, low public demand, conflict over fiscal and administrative responsibilities, and, crucially, a lack of understanding of cholera’s fecal-oral transmission route ensured that the spatial expansion of the network was slow, reaching full coverage only by the 1890s. Moreover, there is evidence that failure to understand the adverse repercussions that an ample tap water supply would have on an urban water cycle still lacking safe sewage disposal contributed to the urban health crisis and cholera’s incidence in particular, as suggested by the disease’s forceful comeback in 1866.

    It took another 25 years until the issue of complementary sewers would be tackled. Analysis of contemporary discourse reveals that, while cholera’s continued appearance clearly motivated some sanitary reform, physicians, public health advocates, urban planners, and the general public for a long time disagreed on the shape that such reforms should take on. Were sewers preferable to manual disposal via containers and haulers? Was the strict separation of liquid waste from excrement and other organic waste preferable to mixed sewers that promised dilution of the contaminated material? Should waste be left to the river’s natural cleaning capabilities or were sediments and the soil’s microorganisms a more reliable disinfector? And what about dangerous, disease-ridden “sewer gases” that could spread via underground plague tubes? Far from suggesting a straight road to a unique sanitary solution, prevailing miasmatic theories were vague enough to levy arguments for competing solutions to the mounting urban health crises.

    The Data Did Not Speak

    In hindsight, it is tempting to interpret this lengthy transition phase as a result of technical, financial and political hurdles counteracting the inevitable triumph of rational approaches to the problems of cholera and infectious disease. However, a closer look at the epistemological struggles of contemporary Berlin’s health officers and medical statisticians suggests that the relationship between the extensive proto-epidemiological analysis of infectious diseases and efficient sanitary reform was highly ambiguous.

    Not only did the collection of ever larger amounts of data fail to yield any compelling reasons to rely on clean drinking water and sanitary sewers, as opposed to a myriad of competing policy recommendation focussing on ventilation, cleansing of the soil or quarantine. Moreover, the lack of adequate mathematical and statistical tools proved fatal for the proto-epidemiological approach to unraveling cholera’s complex properties. Well into the 1880s, Berlin’s health statisticians were forced to retreat to the role of mere documenters as prevailing miasma theories proved too blunt an instrument to cut through the jungle of cholera’s complex spatiotemporal patterns. The “myth of John Snow” (McLeod, 2000) notwithstanding, Berlin’s experience suggests that observational data and inductive logic did not suffice to set the urban health community on the right track and induce crucial investments into the urban water infrastructure. To the contrary, unable to free itself from the vagueness of miasma theory, proto-epidemiology turned out more an obstacle, rather than a driver of knowledge generation.

    “Cholera Forcing”: Tales, Realities, and Implications

    What lessons does a careful reinterpretation of the Western urban sanitation transition promise? Of course, there is no immediate danger of history repeating itself, as comprehension of both cholera’s etiology and the importance of safe water systems dramatically improved. Still, the absence of any automatisms in the Western cholera-sanitation-nexus at the least suggests a cautious interpretation of the disease’s potential to induce change.

    Powerful narratives of the West’s past struggle are highly consequential regarding the attitudes, recommendation, and modes of assistance that today’s developing world receives (Konteh, 2009). While it originates from a misleading backward extrapolation of modern technocratic approaches and scientific knowledge to the past, the real danger of the “cholera forcing” narrative arises when extrapolation of an imagined Western past serves as the basis for present policy recommendations.


    Hamlin, Christopher, 2009: “Cholera Forcing”. The Myth of the Good Epidemic and the Coming of Good Water, American Journal of Public Health 99(11), 1946-1954, doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.165688
    Harris, Bernard & Jonas Helgertz, 2019: Urban Sanitation and the Decline of Mortality, The History of the Family 24(2), 207-226, doi: 10.1080/1081602X.2019.1605923
    Kappner, Kalle, 2019: “Cholera Forcing” and the Urban Water Infrastructure: Lessons from Historical Berlin, EHES Working Paper 167
    Konteh, Frederick Hassan, 2009: Urban Sanitation and Health in the Developing World: Reminiscing the Nineteenth Century Industrial Nations, Health & Place 15(1), 69-78, doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.02.003
    McLeod, Kari S., 2000: Our Sense of Snow: The Myth of John Snow in Medical Geography, Social Science & Medicine 50(7-8), 923-935, doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00345-7

    Kalle Kapner is currently at Humboldt University of Berlin. Find more of his work here: https://hu-berlin.academia.edu/KalleKappner

    Wednesday, 8 January 2020

    From West to East: Bolivian regional GDPs since the 1950s

    José Peres-Cajías
    Universitat de Barcelona

    The political disruption that is taking place worldwide during the last years has prompted the proliferation of analyses (in academia and beyond) that link current vote decisions with particular regional economic and political legacies. Economic historians can offer critical insights to this public debate and the reconstruction of regional GDPs is one alternative of doing so (see here for a discussion on the European case).

    Taking into account recent methodological advances and the long-standing importance of the spatial dimension (both in economic and political terms) in the Latin American literature, a group of scholars lead the reconstruction of regional GDPs in the region. Part of the outcomes of this collective effort will be published in a volume this year, which includes the working paper that I published in the European Historical Economics Society (EEHS).

    The paper reconstructs the evolution of Bolivian regional GDPs from the 1950s onwards. Beyond the contribution to the Bolivian historiography, I suggest that the study of the Bolivian case may offer alternative insights to the international debate because of the landlocked nature of the country. Indeed, because of this feature, the location of economic activity can be highly influenced by investments in public infrastructure. 

    The study shows that, in contrast to most of Latin American experiences, the relative importance of Bolivian regions varied importantly throughout time. Initially, I prove this idea through the analysis of regional population data, which is available since 1846 (two decades after Independence, 1825). For instance, whereas the relative importance of the department of La Paz maintained somehow stable around 30% of total Bolivian population since 1846 to 2012, there is a clear reversal of fortune between Potosi (seat of the famous colonial mining center) and Santa Cruz: the relative importance of the former dropped from 16% (1846) to 8% (2012) and that of the latter increased from 6% (1846) to 26% (2012).

    Map 1. The Relative Importance of Bolivian Departments
    (Bolivian pc GDP=1), 1950
    Thereafter, the analysis focuses on regional GDPs. The study starts in 1950 given the lack of reliable and sufficient information that allows estimating regional agriculture GDPs. When we look at regional GDP pc as a fraction of the national GDP pc, there is a clear change in the relative importance of Bolivian regions (see Maps 1 and 2). For instance, the GDP pc of the southern department of Tarija was well below the national average in 1950 but became the highest during the last years.

    Changes are also noticeable when the relative importance of regional GDP to national GDP is evaluated. For instance, the relative importance of the western departments of La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí decreased from 35%, 10% and 18% of GDP in 1950, to 25%, 6%, and 8% during the last years. By contrast, the size of the economy of Santa Cruz was less than 10% of total GDP in 1950, became the second most important in the 1960s, and the biggest since the mid-1990s, absorbing almost 30% of the Bolivian GDP in recent years. Thus, since the 1950s, there has been a progressive change to the center of gravity of the Bolivian economy, from a north-south axis located in western departments to a west-east axis where La Paz and Cochabamba remain critical but Santa Cruz consolidated as the most dynamic.

    Map 2.  The Relative Importance of Bolivian Departments 
    (Bolivian pc GDP=1), 2012

    In contrast to the European experience or other cases in Latin America, the location of industries hardly is the driving force of these changes. Indeed, the relative importance of manufacture production in Bolivia remained stagnant around 15% of total GDP from the 1940s onwards. By contrast, the evolution of Bolivian regional economies seems to be more connected with the existence of particular natural resources endowments: mineral resources in the case of western economies, fertile lands and oil reserves in Santa Cruz and oil reserves in Tarija.

    However, these natural resources became economically significant thanks to public infrastructure and some institutional arrangements. Indeed, the prevalence of western departments during the first half of the 20th century is linked to the solution of border controversies with neighboring countries and the construction of a railways network that allowed to export minerals through the Pacific Ocean. Similarly, it was thanks to the National Agrarian Reform of 1953 and the inauguration of the highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz in 1954 that migrants could move from west to east and agriculture products from east to west. Likewise, the consolidation of Tarija is related with the long negotiation process between Brazil and Bolivia (early 1970s-early 1990s) and the construction of a gas pipeline between these two countries. In the end, this is good news: the economic fate of Bolivian regions is highly interrelated with natural resources endowments…but not only, so there is space for public policies.

    José Peres-Cajías is Beatriu de Pinós Research Fellow at the Economics History Department, Universitat de Barcelona; more about his research can be read on his personal website.

    Monday, 9 December 2019

    Book launch: Globalization and the Rise of Mass Education, edited by D. Mitch and G. Cappelli (Palgrave Macmillan 2019)

    Globalization and The Rise of Mass Education explores how global forces shaped national and regional educational trends. The globalization of the world economy, starting in the 19th century, brought about important changes that affected school policy and long-term human capital accumulation. Large migrations prompted brain drain and gain across countries, alongside rapid transformations in the sectoral composition of the economy and demand for skills. Ideas on education and schooling circulated more easily, bringing about relevant changes in public policy, while the changing political voice of winners and losers from globalization determined the path followed by public choice. Similarly, religion and the spread of missions came to play a crucial role for the rise of schooling globally. The book is the first of its kind to link globalization and education in a historical perspective, and includes contributions focused on Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

    Gabriele Cappelli, one of the editors of the book (with David Mitch), presenting the volume.

    The edited volume was presented at the University of Goettingen on December 3rd, 2019, in an event organized by Bruno Witzel de Souza, one of the authors, and sponsored by the Centre for Global Migration Studies and the Courant Centre for Poverty, Equity and Growth in Developing Countries. Gabriele Cappelli, one of the editors, presented the concept of the book, its research agenda and its main results, while Felix Meier zu Selhausen, Irina España Eljaiek and Bruno Witzel de Souza presented their chapters – addressing, respectively, missions, conversion and education in colonial Africa, racial exclusion and school development in Colombia during the First Globalization, and the impact of German schools amid Brazilian coffee plantations (1840 – 1940).

    The chapter presented by Felix Meier zu Selhausen.

    The audience, coming from different backgrounds (mainly historians of education, economic historians and development economists), was engaged and active in asking questions and providing comments that expand the range of issues addressed by the book. One issue that was discussed is to what extent the history of education is constrained by country-focused analyses and the availability of nationally-produced data, and to which degree we can write a more transnational history of education within the framework of global history and the history of knowledge.

    Some issues, like the impact of German-migrant enclaves and German schools in Brazil, raised the interest of development economists, who drew parallels with the current integration of refugees across European countries. The comments, questions and debates that were prompted by the event suggest that the book will be of interest for many scholars interested in the issue of globalization and its educational impact, no matter their backgrounds.

    Three of the four authors at the end of the event. Form left to right: Bruno Witzel de Souza, Irina España Eljaiek and Gabriele Cappelli. We thank Felix Meier zu Selhausen for all the pictures --- the reason why he does not show up in them.

    Friday, 20 September 2019

    "How the prime minister can suspend Parliament"

    For your Friday reading, we bring you a blog post from the Oxford University Press, featuring a paper which Kara Dimitruk published in the European Review of Economic History's August 2018 issue. In the post, Kara discusses the political history of Parliamentary closures and the legislative impacts of these closures, as well as how this history informs our understanding of modern legislative processes.

    The paper, "I Intend Therefore to Prorogue”: the effects of political conflict and the Glorious Revolution in parliament, 1660–1702", takes a deep dive into Parliamentary closures, political conflict, and difficulties with bill passages, in the 17th century - all topics which feel very familiar to anyone reading current headlines.

    We all know that economic history informs the present, but Kara's lesson on "How the prime minister can suspend Parliament" is an especially timely and informative read.

    Follow the link above or click here for the blog post, and here for the paper. More about Kara's research is available on her website, here.

    Thursday, 19 September 2019

    EHES 2019 Conference Prize Winners

    The 13th EHES Conference took place in Paris at the end of last month. With the conference comes two prizes for research conducted during the two years since the previous conference.

    The first is the Gino Luzzatto Prize, awarded to the best dissertation defended in the previous two years on any topic in economic history. This year's prize went to Thilo Albers for his dissertation Trade Frictions, Trade Policies, and the Interwar Business Cycle. Thilo completed his PhD at the LSE and is now a postdoc at the Institute of Economic History at Humboldt University in Berlin. Stay tuned for a summary of his dissertation which will be published in the Review together with the two other finalists, Pamfili Antipa and Michiel De Haas. You can read more about his research on his website here.

    The other prize is the Figurola Prize, sponsored by the Figuerola Institute of Social Science History, which is awarded to the best paper published in the Review during the previous two years. This year the honor goes to Fabian Wahl, for the paper "Political participation and economic development. Evidence from the rise of participative political institutions in the late medieval German Lands", published in the May 2019 issue of the Review.

    The abstract: Participative political institutions in late medieval cities in the German Lands had the potential to impact city size and growth. The study confirms the positive effect on economic outcomes of participative political institutions in 282 cities, but supports a more skeptical view of craft guilds. Craft guilds participating in the city council had zero or negative impact. Enfranchising citizens to elect the city government had a stable and robustly positive effect on city size and growth, but only during the medieval period. The effect of participatory institutions declines with age; they are prone to institutional degeneration and rent-seeking.

    The full paper can be read here, and more about his research can be found on his website here.

    Congratulations to both of you; we are looking forward to more research in the coming years!

    Thursday, 20 June 2019

    Human Development in the Age of Globalisation

    Leandro Prados de La Escosura is a professor
    at the University of Charles III in Madrid
    In a new EHES working paper, Leandro Prados de la Escosura (Universidad Carlos III and CEPR) analyses wellbeing which is widely seen as a multi-dimensional phenomenon affected not only by material goods, but also health, education, agency and freedom, environment, and security (Fleurbaey, 2009; Stiglitz et al., 2009). Among the multidimensional approaches to well-being human development has been defined as “a process of enlarging people’s choices” (UNDP, 1990; 10; 1993:105). The working paper is available here. This post has appeared in Vox.eu and it is reproduced here.

    In a new paper, I approach long-term well-being with an augmented historical human development index (AHHDI) that combines new measures of achievements in health and education, material living standards, and political freedom (Prados de la Escosura, 2019). The AHHDI shows that world human development steadily improved over the last one-and-a-half centuries raising its level 5.3-fold since 1870. Still, the world average level remained below 0.5, on a 0-1 scale, in 2015.

    Figure 1 Augmented Human Development* and Real Per Capita GDP Growth (%)          (excluding the income dimension)

    Human development (excluding the income dimension) exhibits similar but slightly slower long-run growth than GDP per person (1.4% and 1.6%, respectively), throughout 1870-2015. A closer look reveals, however, that the pace at which human development progressed did not match that of real per capita GDP, with substantial discrepancies over 1913-1970 and since 2000 (Figure 1). During the phase of globalisation backlash (1914-1950), real per capita GDP growth slowed down across the board as commodity and factor markets disintegrated, while human development thrived, particularly in less developed regions. Conversely, in the post-1950 era, human development has advanced significantly less than real GDP per head.

    These discrepancies derived from the fact that non-income dimensions have driven world human development gains over time (Figure 2). Life expectancy was the main contributor to human development progress over the 150 years, although its main contribution took place during 1914-1950 and the 1960s when it contributed half the human development gains. Education led the late nineteenth century advance and was a steady contributor to human development over the entire time span considered (but for the 1940s) and political freedom made substantial contributions in the 1900s and 1950s, and during 1980-2000.

    Figure 2. Drivers of Augmented Human Development in the World, 1870-2015 (%)

    Advances in Human Development were unevenly distributed across world regions. An absolute gap between the OECD and the Rest broadened throughout 1870-2010. In relative terms, however, the gap waned since the beginnings of the twentieth century, especially in its central decades and, again, from 1990 onwards so, by 2015, human development in the Rest represented over half that of the OECD, doubling its share a century earlier. The evolution of the Rest vis-à-vis the OECD in terms of human development is at odds with that in terms of per capita income, that presents a sustained deterioration, from nearly one-third of the OECD level in 1870 to less than 15 per cent in 2000.

    Catching up to the OECD in terms of human development has taken place in the Rest since 1900 and, especially, in the 1930s, the Golden Age (1950-70), and during the last two decades of the twentieth century, with education making the single most important contribution over the long run (Figure 3). Longevity emerges as the main dimension behind catching up in the early twentieth century, the 1920s particular, when a large proportion of the Rest was under colonial rule, and especially, in the 1960s, at the time of active public policies across the board and China’s recovery from the Great Leap Forward debacle. Lastly, political freedom was the leading force behind catching up prior to World War I, in the 1930s and 1950s, and over 1980-2000.

    Figure 3. Augmented Human Development Catching-up in The Rest 1870–2015 (%)
    Why was the contribution of longevity to enhancing human development largely concentrated in 1920-1970? Health improvements can be depicted in terms of a health function (Preston, 1975; Easterlin, 1999). Movements along the function represent gains attributable to economic growth and result in improving nutrition -which strengthen the immune system and reduce morbidity (Fogel, 2004)- and increasing the public provision of health (Cutler and Miller, 2005). Outward shifts in the health function represent improvements in medical knowledge (Riley, 2005; Cutler et al., 2006). The advancement in medical knowledge originated in the discovery of the germ theory of disease (Preston, 1975) that led to the epidemiological or health transition in which persistent gains in lower mortality and higher survival were achieved as infectious disease gave way to chronic disease as the main cause of death (Omran, 1971). The germ theory of disease led to the introduction of new vaccines (since the 1890s) and drugs to cure infectious diseases (sulphonamides since the late 1930s and antibiotics since the 1950s), along chemicals such as DDT, instrumental in battling malaria (Easterlin, 1999; Jayachandran et al., 2010; Lindgren, 2016). However, the germ theory of disease had another far from negligible effect: the diffusion of preventive methods of disease transmission and knowledge dissemination which through schooling and low cost improvements in public health had a profound impact in less developed regions where low incomes precluded the purchase of the new drugs. As a result, mortality declined throughout the life course with special impact on infant mortality and maternal death (Riley, 2001). The epidemiological transition spread beyond the most advanced regions, namely, Western Europe, the European offshoots, and Japan (OECD hereafter), since the 1920s, a finding at odds with the view that dates health improvements outside the West only since the 1940s as the absence of drugs and the lack of concern of colonial rulers prevented it (Acemoglu and Johnson, 2007). By 1970, the epidemiological transition was largely exhausted helping to explain life expectancy’s declining contribution to human development thereafter.

    Since 1990 a second health transition with result of better treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and vision problems, has led to mortality falling among the elderly, helped by better health and nutrition in their childhood (Eggleston and Fuchs, 2012; Deaton, 2013). The diffusion of new medical technologies has resulted in longer and healthier life years (Mathers et al., 2001; Hay et al., 2017). This second health transition has been so far restricted to the OECD. The AIDS-HIV pandemic in Sub Saharan Africa and the collapse of socialism, plus the lack of public policies, help to explain life expectancy’s negative contribution to catching up in the Rest since 1990.

    Acemoglu, D. and Johnson, S. (2007), ‘Disease and Development: The Effects of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth’, Journal of Political Economy, 115: 925–985.
    Cutler, D. and Miller, G. (2005), ‘The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advance: The Twentieth Century United States’, Demography, 42 (1): 1¬22.
    Cutler, D., Deaton, A. and Lleras-Muney, A. (2006), ‘The Determinants of Mortality’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20 (1): 97¬–120
    Deaton, A. (2013), The Great Escape. Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)
    Easterlin, R.A. (1999), ‘How Beneficient is the Market? A Look at the Modern History of Mortality’, European Review of Economic History, 3: 257-294.
    Eggleston, K.N. and Fuchs, V. (2012), ‘The New Demographic Transition: Most Gains in Life Expectancy Now Realized Late in Life’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26 (1): 137-156.
    Fleurbaey, M. (2009), ‘Beyond GDP: The Quest for a Measure of Social Welfare’, Journal of Economic Literature, 47: 1029–1075.
    Fogel, R.W. (2004), The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2010. Europe, American and the Third World (New York: Cambridge University Press).
    Hay (2017), “Global, Regional, and National Disability-adjusted Life-years (DALYs) for 333 Diseases and Injuries and Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) for 195 Countries and Territories, 1990–2016: a Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016”, Lancet 390: 1260-1344.
    Jayachandran, S., Lleras-Muney, A. and Smith, K.V. (2010), ‘Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs’, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2 (1): 118–146.
    Lindgren, B. (2016), The Rise in Life Expectancy, Health Trends among the Elderly, and the Demand for Care. A Selected Literature Review, NBER Working Paper 22521
    Mathers, C.D., Sadana, R., Salomon, J.A., Murray, C.J.L. and Lopez, A.D. (2001), ‘Healthy Life Expectancy in 191 Countries’, Lancet, 357: 1685–1691
    Omran, A.R. (1971), “The Epidemiological Transition: A Theory of Epidemiology of Population Change,” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 49: 509-538.
    Prados de la Escosura (2019), Human Development in the Age of Globalisation, CEPR Discussion Paper 13744.
    Preston, S.H., (1975), ‘Mortality and Level of Development’, Population Studies, 29: 231–248
    Riley, J.C. (2001), Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History (New York: Cambridge University Press).
    Riley, J.C. (2005), Poverty and Life Expectancy: The Jamaica Paradox (New York: Cambridge University Press).
    Stiglitz, J.E., Sen, A.K and Fitoussi, J.P (2009), The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress Revisited: Reflections and Overview, http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/en/documents.htm.
    United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (1990–2016), Human Development Report, New York: Oxford University Press. 

    Tuesday, 7 May 2019

    Call for Applications ESTER Research Design Course How to strengthen your dissertation project?

    The European graduate School for Training in Economic and Social Historical Research (ESTER) is a European platform for postgraduate teaching. ESTER announces its annual Research Design Course (RDC) for economic and social historians on 28 – 30 October in Lyon (France) The ESTER network, established in 1991, involves more than 60 universities throughout Europe and offers high-level research training for PhD students in an international context. At present the network is organised by the N.W. Posthumus Institute, which is a graduate school for economic and social history in the Netherlands and Flanders. The Research Design Course of 2019 will take place at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and is sponsored by the LARHRA, Triangle and East Asian Studies Research Centres. This year’s edition will be organised by Claude Chevaleyre (Lyon Institute of East Asian Studies) and Bram Hoonhout (Radboud University). The Research Design Course (RDC) is a format promoted by ESTER since the late 1990s. The RDC assists students in setting up a high quality and well-designed plan for their dissertation under the guidance of a team of leading senior researchers whose task it is to provide comments and feedback.

    The RDC is thus not a “course” in sense that an instructor will give a lecture or that you
    will discuss historical theories in a seminar setting. Instead, it is centred on presentations
    of the individual projects and the ensuing discussions on how to improve them.
    You will therefore be asked to write a paper in which you discuss your Research Design.
    The aim of this methodological reflection is to investigate the scientific procedures that
    historians use to reach scientific explanations and to combine all analytical elements into
    a synthetic and coherent historical account. In this paper, you will also prepare a detailed
    work plan for the dissertation. The paper has a length of around 25 pages and should
    provide the structure in which the remaining research for the dissertation will take place.
    Subsequently, you will give a brief presentation during the conference, act as reporter,
    chair and peer commentator for other papers, and will receive feedback from junior and
    senior scholars in the field.

    In this way, the RDC course offers PhD students help in sharpening and refining their
    research questions, in strengthening the focus of their research, in increasing the
    consistency of their overall dissertation plan, in making explicit the various theoretical
    and methodological choices that have to be made in the course of the project, and in
    improving the composition of the dissertation. The RDC course thereby aims at a better
    awareness of research choices that need to be made.

    Description and organisation of the RDC
    The RDC consists of a 3-day workshop. Prior to the workshop, PhD students will prepare
    a paper (of around 25 pages) according to a set of guidelines. During the workshop, each
    paper will be examined in separate 70-minute sessions. Each session will begin with
    comments prepared by one of the participating PhD students, followed by comments by
    one of the senior commentators, after which a general discussion among all participants
    will take place.

    All papers must be circulated in advance; students need to read and prepare all papers to
    be discussed in their group. This year a maximum number of 40 students can be admitted;
    work will take place in three or four groups of students. A certificate will be awarded to
    participants who have successfully completed the course.

    Applications and admission PhD students should apply online and submit an 800-word abstract of the content of their dissertation project. A first selection will take place on the basis of the abstract. After this stage, PhD students who are accepted will be asked to follow a set of guidelines in order to write their research paper. The final admission to the course depends upon the following points: • the students must meet the deadline for submission of his/her paper; • the quality of the paper: the papers must be of sufficient academic quality, and the level of the English used in the paper must be sufficient. Dates and location The 2019 RDC will take place at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. The course will start with an informal welcome session on Sunday 27 October around 6 pm. The course will end on Wednesday 29 October around 4 pm. Students wishing to participate are requested to send in their application no later than 10 June 2019, using the online form. The selection of students will be completed by 21 June. Deadline for submission of papers by accepted students is 15 September 2019. Following that date, the papers will be made available to all participants.

    Time path

    18 April Call for Applications

    10 June Deadline application

    21 June Selection completed, applicants informed

    15 September Deadline paper submission

    6 October Papers online for reading

    28-30 October RDC Lyon

    There are no registration costs and accommodation (three nights; from Sunday to
    Wednesday) will be covered by the organisers. Because of budgetary constraints, this
    accommodation will consist of shared (twin) rooms. Most catering will be covered by the
    organisation too, yet on Tuesday you will have to make your own dinner arrangements.
    Travel arrangements to, from and within Lyon will also have to be organised and covered
    by the selected participants (or their home institution) themselves.

    Students who do not have travel budget or for whom financing would be an obstacle to
    participation may be eligible for a travel subsidy. This is especially intended to encourage
    participation of students from Eastern Europe. Please indicate this wish in your

    For inquiries concerning this course, please contact the education programme director of
    ESTER: Bram Hoonhout (b.hoonhout@let.ru.nl)

    Saturday, 20 April 2019

    How Britain unified Germany: Endogenous trade costs and the formation of a customs union

    Nikolaus Wold is Full Profesor in economic
    history at Humboldt University in Berlin
    State borders can change due to both political and economic disputes. This column shows how the formation of the German state can be traced back to British political intervention at the end of the Napoleonic War. In preventing Russia from gaining territory westwards, Britain set in motion a series of events that gave Prussia strategic trade advantages. This led to the formation of Europe's first customs union (the Zollverein) and prepared the political unification of Germany.
    The boundaries of states are the heart of many recent debates, be it the European refugee crisis, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), or Brexit (Snower and Langhammer 2019). After decades of stability, today we are again seeing heated discussions about the shape and extent of political borders. Clearly, borders are neither naturally given nor random. In Europe and elsewhere, the current state borders have been formed and changed over centuries, sometimes peacefully, often in bloody wars. In Huning and Wolf (2019), we look at the formation of the German nation state led by Prussia and trace it back to a change in borders decided at the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15. 
    In a nutshell, we have two findings:
    • First, the geographic position of a state can be a crucial factor for institutional change and development. 
    • Second, the formation of the German Zollverein in 1834 under Prussian leadership was a truly European story, involving Britain, the Russian Empire, and the Belgian revolution of 1830/31. We show in particular that the Zollverein formed as an unintended consequence of Britain’s intervention in 1814/15 to push back Russian influence over Europe. 
    In theory, why would the geographic position of a state relative to that of other states matter? Intuitively, it should matter as long as the costs of trade and factor flows depend on their routes. If a large share of my trade has to pass the territory of one or several neighbours, my trade and trade policy will depend on the trade policy of my neighbours. Moreover, if tariffs are levied not only on imports but also on transit trade, as was general practice until the Barcelona Statute of 1921 (Uprety 2006), policymakers face the problem of multiple marginalisation, which is well known from the literature on supply chains. In our work, we provide a simple theoretical framework (in partial equilibrium) to show how the location of a revenue maximising state planner will affect its ability to set tariffs. Some states can increase their tariff revenue at the expense of their hinterland. Next, we show that a customs union can be beneficial for a group of states exactly because it solves the problem of multiple marginalisation. 
    A major challenge to testing our idea empirically is that a state’s political boundaries (and hence its location) do not change very often, and if they do, the change is unlikely to be unrelated to trade or factor flows. However, the formation of the German Zollverein in 1834 can be considered as a quasi-experiment. Let us briefly revisit this historical episode. At the end of the Napoleonic wars of 1792-1814/15, only Russia and the UK were left as major military powers. Habsburg, Prussia, and the defeated France attempted to consolidate their positions at the expense of the many smaller states that had just about survived the wars, notably the former allies of Napoleon such as Saxony and Poland. Overall, the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 were dominated by military-strategic considerations between the two great powers. Russia wanted to expand westwards, Prussia was desperate to annex the populous Kingdom of Saxony, which bordered Prussia in the south and would create a large and coherent territory. To this end, Prussia was willing to give up not only her Polish territories to Russia, but also her positions and claims on the Rhineland (Müller 1986). This met stiff resistance from Britain, joined by Habsburg and France, which feared a new Russian hegemony on the continent – the ‘Polish Saxon question’. After weeks of diplomatic struggle, the outcome was a division of Saxony, another division of Poland and Prussia being established as the “warden of the German gate against France” (Clapham 1921: 98). Figure 1 shows the result of these negotiations. 
    Figure 1 Outcome of the Congress of Vienna, 1814
    The Prussian territory was split into an eastern and a western part, divided by the small Hessian states. “Berlin failed to get what it wanted and got what it did not want… The creation of a large Western wedge along the river Rhine was a British, not a Prussian, idea” (Clark 2007: 389). While this was initially considered a diplomatic disaster for Prussia, we also see from Figure 1 that Prussia now controlled large parts of Germany’s most important navigable waterways to the sea, the Elbe and the Rhine. 
    Prussia started to take advantage of this position with the tariff law of 1818, which abolished all internal tariffs and established a uniform external tariff, including transit tariffs. From there on traders in the southern states were forced to either detour the large Prussian territory, typically over Hessian land, or accept the transit tollage. Given that in the early 19th century, transport on water was much cheaper than transport over land, this came at a large physical detour cost. According to Sombart (1902), the average freight cost per tonne-kilometre on water was 0.6-1.5% (!) of the freight cost on country roads, or 25% of that on paved state roads. But road construction was slow and expensive and railroad construction would not start before the 1840s. Hence trade was routed along waterways, especially trade in colonial goods, which had to be imported from overseas. 
    In turn, revenue from colonial goods – notably sugar, tobacco, and wine – accounted for 80% of the Prussian tariff revenue in 1831 (Onishi 1973), and similar shares could be found elsewhere.  Prussia was interested in tariff revenue, but also in establishing a land bridge between the two parts of her territory. As Prussia started to negotiate a customs union with the Hessian states, this was vigorously opposed by the southern states (Bavaria and Württemberg), who feared becoming hostage to Prussian tariff policy. But it was equally opposed by Habsburg and Hanover (in personal union with the UK). Notably, the Habsburg chancellor Metternich feared that a customs union under Prussian leadership would be a first step towards a political expansion of Prussia. In hindsight we know that he was right. Nevertheless, Prussia succeeded in forming a customs union with Hesse-Darmstadt in 1828.
    One major factor that limited the bargaining power of Prussia in the late 1820s was the fact that the Netherlands controlled Rotterdam, the mouth of the Rhine river. Trade on the Rhine was subject to tariffs and duties payable at Rotterdam, as well as staple rights and the requirement to use Dutch shipping companies (Spaulding 2011). It was the Belgian revolution and the prospective competition from an independent Belgium that led to an agreement between Prussia and the Netherlands to reduce these trade costs in March 1831. After this, transit trade over the land of Hesse-Cassel was sharply reduced. In August 1831, Hesse-Cassel joined the Prussian customs union, which provided the desired land bridge between the two Prussian territories. In 1833, Bavaria and Württemberg followed, and in 1834 the German Zollverein was formed. 
    In our paper, we show that our theoretical framework can explain this series of events very well. First, controlling for a host of alternative explanations, we provide evidence that states for which the least-cost path to the North Sea or Baltic led via Prussia entered the Zollverein earlier. We also show that this transit captures the effect of distance to the ocean, which has been proposed as an instrumental variable for access to the Zollverein (Keller and Shiue 2014). Moreover, we use historical data on prices, freight rate, and market sizes to calibrate our theoretical model and simulate tariff revenues under the various customs unions. We can show how and why the formation of a customs union between Hesse-Darmstadt and Prussia in 1828 and again the opening of the Rhine trade in 1831 had large effects on tariff revenues of other states (Ploeckl 2015).  Finally, we simulate our model under counterfactual borders – what if Prussia had got what it wanted in 1815, namely, the entire Kingdom of Saxony at the expense of creating an independent Rhine-state? We show that with such borders, the German Zollverein would very likely not have been formed. Put differently, as a collateral damage to her intervention at Vienna in 1815, Britain unified Germany. 


    Clapham, J H (1921), The economic development of France and Germany, 1815-1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
    Huning, T R, and N Wolf (2019), “How Britain Unified Germany: Endogenous Trade costs and the Formation of a Customs union”, CEPR Discussion Paper no. 13634.
    Keller, W, and C H Shiue (2014), “Endogenous Formation of Free Trade Agreements: Evidence from the Zollverein’s Impact on Market Integration”, Journal of Economic History 74: 1168-1204.
    Müller, K (1986), Quellen zur Geschichte des Wiener Kongresses 1814/1815, Bd. 23 of Ausgewählte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte der Neuzeit, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. 
    Onishi, T (1973), Zolltarifpolitik Preußens bis zur Gründung des deutschen Zollvereins. Ein Beitrag zur Finanz- und Außenhandelspolitik Preußens, Göttingen: Schwartz. 
    Ploeckl, F (2015), “The Zollverein and the Sequence of a Customs Union”, Australian Economic History Review 55: 277-300. 
    Snower, D, and R Langhammer (2019), “Untangling Brexit”, VoxEU.org, 7 January. 
    Sombart, W (1902), Der moderne Kapitalismus, Bd 1, Die Genesis des Kapitalismus, Berlin: Duncker und Humblot. 
    Spaulding, R (2011), “Revolutionary France and the Transformation of the Rhine”, Central European History 44: 203-226. 
    Uprety, K (2006), The transit regime for landlocked states: international law and development perspectives, Washington DC: World Bank Publications.

    Tuesday, 2 April 2019

    Without coal in the age of steam and dams in the age of electricity: an explanation for the failure of Portugal to industrialize before the Second World War

    Sofia Henriques is a postdoctoral fellow at Lund University
    In a new EHES working paper, Sofia Henriques, Lund University, and Paul Sharp, University of Southern Denmark, examine the case of Portugal before the Second World War from a hitherto relatively little researched perspective. They thus provide a natural resource explanation for the divergence of the Portuguese economy relative to other European countries, based on a considerable body of contemporary sources. Their argument rests on two observations based on the periods before and after the First World War. The working paper is available here.
    Paul Sharp is Full Professor at University of Southern Denmark
    For the first period, they demonstrate that a lack of domestic resources meant that Portugal experienced limited and unbalanced growth during the age of steam. Imports of coal were prohibitively expensive for inland areas, which failed to industrialize. Coastal areas developed through steam but were constrained by limited demand from the interior. As can be seen from the figure below, coal thus never constituted a major proportion of Portuguese energy consumption.

    Portuguese energy consumption by source 1850-2016 in gigajoules per capita
     Source: 1856-1959: Henriques (2009), with revisions to exclude bunker fuel. 1960-2016: Henriques and Borowiecki (2017), IEA (2015), FAO (2017), DGGE (2017) and PORDATA (2017). Primary electricity expressed by its heat content. See Appendix.

    Second, they show that after the First World War, when other coal-poor countries turned to hydro-power, Portugal relied on coal-based thermal-power, creating a vicious circle of high energy prices and labor-intensive industrialization. The figure below gives some idea of how expensive electricity was in Lisbon compared to some other countries.

    Electricity prices in 1923 and 1935 for selected countries, dollar cents
    Sources: See Table 5, Exchanges rates are from Officer (2009).
    They argue that this dependence on thermal/power was the result of (i) water resources which were relatively expensive to exploit; and (ii) path-dependency, whereby the failure to develop earlier meant that there was a lack of capital and demand from industry.
    This vicious circle would only be broken during the 1950s and 1960s, a period not covered in their work. Neutrality during the Second World War led to an inflow of capital, which might be the reason why the state was then able to invest in a vast electrification plan using hydro-power, ensuring cheap energy for both old and new industries. However, it was already too late for hydropower to make a significant difference: by then the world had entered the age of cheap oil which democratized industrialization in many countries, meaning that endowments of energy were no longer an important prerequisite and source of growth.