Early Economies South Africa

Session for the World Economic History Conference, South Africa, July 2012

Exploring early economies: economic structure before the late Middle Ages

Recently there has been a revival of interest in historical national accounts for the late medieval period in Europe (e.g. England, Holland, Spain). The main finding of those studies is that these medieval economies had a more modern structure than hitherto believed and so they arrive at higher per capita GDP estimates around 1300 CE. This has implications for estimates of both the size and structure of the early economies.

Indeed, more recent estimates by Milanovic (2006), Amemiya (2007), Scheidel and Friesen (2009), and Lo Cascio and Malanima (2009) have led to an upward revision of the estimated income levels. In addition, this new generation of papers emphasizes more the importance of economic structure, that is, the role of inequality, market efficiency, or the size of the pastoral or manufacturing sector.

The primary goal of the session is to offer a forum for researchers working on the size and structure of the early economies. This will allow them to present and discuss quantitative estimates and to link them to the analysis of the qualitative aspects of the economy. Additionally, we wish to stress the importance of making the results comparable with the late medieval estimates, in order to gain a long-term perspective. In doing so, the session aims to enhance our knowledge of the size and structure of economies over time and across regions, and to stimulate the comparative analysis in this field.

The organizers welcome proposals for papers on early economies, especially those that try to quantify early economies outside of Europe.

Presenters (presenters in bold have agreed to participate):

1) Branko Milanovic (Income and inequality in the Roman Empire, ca. 1-700 CE)
branko_mi@yahoo.com  bmilanovic@worldbank.org (World Bank/University of Maryland)

2) Nils Hybel (Changes in Scandinavian economy around the turn of the first millennium)
hybel@hum.ku.dk  (University of Copenhagen)

3) Jean-Pascal Bassino and  Takashima Masanori (Estimating GDP for a protohistoric society: the case of Kofun period Japan, ca. 250-600CE)
jpbassino@gmail.com (University of Montpellier III and Hitotsubashi University) macha.takashima@gmail.com (Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University)

4) Bas van Bavel and Maya Schatzmiller (Changing economy in Iraq, ca. 700-1400 CE)
b.j.p.vanbavel@uu.nl   (Utrecht University)  maya@uwo.ca (University of Western Ontario)

5)  Peter Foldvari and Bas van Leeuwen (Exploring early economies: Bridging the gap between ancient and medieval economies).
peter.foldvari@econ.unideb.hu (Debrecen University/Utrecht University) bas.vanleeuwen1@googlemail.com (University of Warwick/Free University/Utrecht University)

6) Walter Scheidel ("Response: Prospects and Problems of Reconstructing Early
GDP and Real Income".)
scheidel@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

7) Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson (Economic development in the Roman Empire)
alan.bowman@bnc.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford) andrew.wilson@arch.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford)