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The Economic History Podcast
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The Economic History Podcast

Author: Seán Kenny

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The Economic History podcast is a platform for sharing knowledge, ideas and new research with a general interest audience. Each fortnight, we meet leading academics in the field and discuss a range of topics, including pandemics, long run economic growth, gender issues, financial crises, inequality, sustainable development and a number of weird and fun economic experiments in history. There is no time like the past to help us understand the present.
23 Episodes
In this episode, we meet Prof. Jutta Bolt to discuss the collaborative effort of the Maddison project, which standardizes  international income statistics to compare living standards over time and space. We look at some of Jutta’s research on the relationship between slavery and economic growth, as well as discussing how pre-colonial institutions influenced colonial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. We finish with a review of some of her new work on historical income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa.
Professor Nicholas Crafts discusses some important developments in our interpretations of the Industrial Revolution over recent decades. We discuss how Nick's work, along with that of others, has led to a more sober interpretation of the productivity performance of the British economy during the first Industrial Revolution.  Some of the most prominent theories of the  root causes of the Industrial Revolution are covered as well as potential "disadvantages" of being the first country to experience modern economic growth.
In this episode, we meet Dr. Leigh Gardner to consider the experience of a number of former British colonies in Africa. We review the literature and Leigh's work on the cost of financing and operating former colonies and compare their debt and borrowing experiences  with other regions. We also discuss her recent work on constructing national accounts for eight African economies 1885-2008 and review their experiences over the long run.  The magnitude and frequency of economic shrinking stands out as a major brake to economic convergence in the cases considered.
In this episode, we speak with Professor Richard Steckel on his extensive work using height, nutritional, fertility and mortality data to explain the tragic outcomes of American slave health. We discuss the marriage and fertility patterns of slaves and consider what these implied for their children. After slave liberation, we look at the potential labour market facing freed slaves and the legal and violent backlash visited upon their children's generation. 
In this episode, Prof. Richard Sylla talks us through the process of building up a currency union in the U.S. following independence in 1776. We also consider the key ingredients for a successful "financial revolution", drawing on international examples from economic history. In addition, the relationship between modern financial systems and subsequent economic growth is discussed with reference to Sylla's own work. 
In this episode, we discuss the subtitle of Professor Jared Rubin's book: 'Why the West got Rich and the Middle East did Not.' We consider the Golden Age of Islam against the Western European backwater, facing its long dark age. Jared offers an original political economy framework to help understand why the latter eventually pulled ahead, in terms of economic performance. We look at the context of the birth of both religions and their subsequent relationships with contemporary political elites and legal systems. We also review how the path dependent processes emanating from these had long lasting economic effects. Finally, we discuss the divergence in the political cultures of some Catholic and Protestant states in post reformation Europe and reflect on some current parallels in the Middle East.
In this episode, we meet with the eminent Prof. Diane Coyle to discuss the evolution of measuring economic activity through time. When and why did the process begin and how did it evolve? What were the political motivations that drove the changes regarding how and what we recorded? How does it measure what we value and does it place appropriate value on what we measure?
Why Economic History?

Why Economic History?


In this episode, we meet 'the guy who wrote the book on' why economists need economic history, Dr. Chris Colvin (Queen's University Belfast). We discuss the importance of the subject for policy makers, economists and the additional tools economic historians bring to their research.  From panics to pandemics, we can only learn from the past.
In this episode, we meet Professor Nikolaus Wolf discuss Germany's economic development since the Napoleonic Wars with a particular focus on Regional development. We discuss trends in German economic integration, the division after World War II and the consider the regional economic differences since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (Reunification in 1990). 
In this episode we look at the long run development of India's Economy (1700-2010) with Professor Bishrupniya Gupta. We consider the institutional legacy of Colonialism on matters such as education and agricultural productivity. We also discuss the effects of economic policy shifts in independent India and consider some of the historical roots of sectoral productivity.
This week, we meet Professor John Turner to discuss his new book "Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles" with Will Quinn. We cover their original interpretation of historical bubbles using their newly developed concept of the bubble triangle. Among other things, we look at the  railway and bicycle manias, the Wall Street Crash and two recent Chinese bubbles. We also contemplate the variety of costs of investment in Poyais bonds.  
This week, Professor Stephen Broadberry shares insights from his extensive work in constructing national accounts over the very long run, to answer contemporary debates. When did the Great Divergence occur? Why does structural change matter and what did it imply for leading economies of the last century? Finally, we look at the implications of economic the frequency and magnitude of economic shrinking for developing countries.
In this episode, we meet Prof. Jane Humphries and discuss her extensive research on women in the workforce. We discuss changes in the relative position of female casual workers and annually contracted workers and tackle hypotheses of the potential causes (and validity) of the "male breadwinner" model, before and after the Industrial Revolution. We also consider a reinterpretation of historical living standards, based upon using annual, rather than daily wage measures. 
In this episode, we meet Prof. Patrick Wallis to discuss some of his previous work on pandemics and plagues. We look at the comparative magnitudes of some of the worst disease outbreaks and discuss how the perceptions of pandemics, the norms around personal responsibility and the nature of policy responses have all evolved over time. We also consider the nature of media reporting across cases and how government action may have been influenced by the socioeconomic status of the initial sufferers.  
This week, we chat with Professor Morten Jerven on the weakness of data in developing economies. We discuss the history of political machinery behind final economic statistics, the misaligned incentives facing data collectors and providers and the inconsistency between key international databases. We also discuss the comparative lack of funding for statistical agencies in developing countries, given the gigantic tasks facing them, and finish with how much it might cost to improve statistical capacity to a relatively acceptable level.
In this episode, we are joined by Prof. Nicholas Crafts. Nick covers the interwar period, the Great Depression, the Golden Age and Secular Stagnation. We also discuss the "social capabilities" of economies and the idea that an appropriate "institutional fit" for one economic age will not necessarily be the correct configuration to exploit the opportunities of the next epoch.
In this episode, we chat with Professor Cormac Ó Gráda about his new work that re-interprets the causes and mechanisms underlying the Industrial Revolution. We also consider the profound economic and human dislocation that resulted from the extreme economic shock of the Irish Famine during the same period, comparing it with other such events across the globe through economic history.
In this episode, Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey discusses the relationship between technological breakthroughs and the varying responses from Labour over the long run. We discuss whether we are currently entering another 'Engel's Pause', contrasting labour replacing versus labour augmenting technologies and consider the political challenges they leave in their wake.
In this episode, Professor Lisa Cook talks about her work on measuring the economic costs of discrimination. We discuss the lost output resulting from the large volume of "missing" patents (equivalent to a medium-sized European country's) due to racial violence and institutionalized discrimination. We also discuss the macroeconomic consequences of discrimination against African Americans and women at each stage of the innovation process.
In this episode, we chat with François Velde about his work on great debasements, sudden deflations in France, and lottery punters paying more for uncertain, rather than certain, payoffs.
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