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The Princeton Economic History of the Western World

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The Princeton Economic History of the Western World

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The Roman Market Economy

Peter Temin

The quality of life for ordinary Roman citizens at the height of the Roman Empire probably was better than that of any other large group of people living before the Industrial Revolution. The Roman Market Economy uses the tools of modern economics to show how trade, markets, and the Pax Romana were critical to ancient Rome's prosperity.

Peter Temin, one of the world's foremost economic historians, argues that markets dominated the Roman economy. He traces how the Pax Romana encouraged trade around the Mediterranean, and how Roman law promoted commerce and banking. Temin shows that a reasonably vibrant market for wheat extended throughout the empire, and suggests that the Antonine Plague may have been responsible for turning the stable prices of the early empire into the persistent inflation of the late. He vividly describes how various markets operated in Roman times, from commodities and slaves to the buying and selling of land. Applying modern methods for evaluating economic growth to data culled from historical sources, Temin argues that Roman Italy in the second century was as prosperous as the Dutch Republic in its golden age of the seventeenth century.

The Roman Market Economy reveals how economics can help us understand how the Roman Empire could have ruled seventy million people and endured for centuries.

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States of Credit

Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities

David Stasavage

States of Credit provides the first comprehensive look at the joint development of representative assemblies and public borrowing in Europe during the medieval and early modern eras. In this pioneering book, David Stasavage argues that unique advances in political representation allowed certain European states to gain early and advantageous access to credit, but the emergence of an active form of political representation itself depended on two underlying factors: compact geography and a strong mercantile presence.

Stasavage shows that active representative assemblies were more likely to be sustained in geographically small polities. These assemblies, dominated by mercantile groups that lent to governments, were in turn more likely to preserve access to credit. Given these conditions, smaller European city-states, such as Genoa and Cologne, had an advantage over larger territorial states, including France and Castile, because mercantile elites structured political institutions in order to effectively monitor public credit. While creditor oversight of public funds became an asset for city-states in need of finance, Stasavage suggests that the long-run implications were more ambiguous. City-states with the best access to credit often had the most closed and oligarchic systems of representation, hindering their ability to accept new economic innovations. This eventually transformed certain city-states from economic dynamos into rentier republics.

Exploring the links between representation and debt in medieval and early modern Europe, States of Credit contributes to broad debates about state formation and Europe's economic rise.

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Understanding the Process of Economic Change

Douglass C. North

In this landmark work, a Nobel Prize-winning economist develops a new way of understanding the process by which economies change. Douglass North inspired a revolution in economic history a generation ago by demonstrating that economic performance is determined largely by the kind and quality of institutions that support markets. As he showed in two now classic books that inspired the New Institutional Economics (today a subfield of economics), property rights and transaction costs are fundamental determinants. Here, North explains how different societies arrive at the institutional infrastructure that greatly determines their economic trajectories.

North argues that economic change depends largely on "adaptive efficiency," a society's effectiveness in creating institutions that are productive, stable, fair, and broadly accepted--and, importantly, flexible enough to be changed or replaced in response to political and economic feedback. While adhering to his earlier definition of institutions as the formal and informal rules that constrain human economic behavior, he extends his analysis to explore the deeper determinants of how these rules evolve and how economies change. Drawing on recent work by psychologists, he identifies intentionality as the crucial variable and proceeds to demonstrate how intentionality emerges as the product of social learning and how it then shapes the economy's institutional foundations and thus its capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.

Understanding the Process of Economic Change accounts not only for past institutional change but also for the diverse performance of present-day economies. This major work is therefore also an essential guide to improving the performance of developing countries.

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Unsettled Account

The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800

Richard S. Grossman

Commercial banks are among the oldest and most familiar financial institutions. When they work well, we hardly notice; when they do not, we rail against them. What are the historical forces that have shaped the modern banking system? In Unsettled Account, Richard Grossman takes the first truly comparative look at the development of commercial banking systems over the past two centuries in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Grossman focuses on four major elements that have contributed to banking evolution: crises, bailouts, mergers, and regulations. He explores where banking crises come from and why certain banking systems are more resistant to crises than others, how governments and financial systems respond to crises, why merger movements suddenly take off, and what motivates governments to regulate banks.

Grossman reveals that many of the same components underlying the history of banking evolution are at work today. The recent subprime mortgage crisis had its origins, like many earlier banking crises, in a boom-bust economic cycle. Grossman finds that important historical elements are also at play in modern bailouts, merger movements, and regulatory reforms.

Unsettled Account is a fascinating and informative must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the modern commercial banking system came to be, where it is headed, and how its development will affect global economic growth.

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The Vanishing Irish

Households, Migration, and the Rural Economy in Ireland, 1850-1914

Timothy W. Guinnane

The book description for "The Vanishing Irish" is currently unavailable.

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Why Australia Prospered

The Shifting Sources of Economic Growth

Ian W. McLean

This book is the first comprehensive account of how Australia attained the world's highest living standards within a few decades of European settlement, and how the nation has sustained an enviable level of income to the present. Beginning with the Aboriginal economy at the end of the eighteenth century, Ian McLean argues that Australia's remarkable prosperity across nearly two centuries was reached and maintained by several shifting factors. These included imperial policies, favorable demographic characteristics, natural resource abundance, institutional adaptability and innovation, and growth-enhancing policy responses to major economic shocks, such as war, depression, and resource discoveries.

Natural resource abundance in Australia played a prominent role in some periods and faded during others, but overall, and contrary to the conventional view of economists, it was a blessing rather than a curse. McLean shows that Australia's location was not a hindrance when the international economy was centered in the North Atlantic, and became a positive influence following Asia's modernization. Participation in the world trading system, when it flourished, brought significant benefits, and during the interwar period when it did not, Australia's protection of domestic manufacturing did not significantly stall growth. McLean also considers how the country's notorious origins as a convict settlement positively influenced early productivity levels, and how British imperial policies enhanced prosperity during the colonial period. He looks at Australia's recent resource-based prosperity in historical perspective, and reveals striking elements of continuity that have underpinned the evolution of the country's economy since the nineteenth century.

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