Feudalism

Feudalism was the economic and political system of Europe during the Middle Ages. One might be tempted to dismiss it as a primitive system, discarded when something better came along, but to do so would be to misunderstand human institutions…

The Emergence of European States

From the fall of the Roman Empire until at least 1100 AD, there was nothing in Europe that could be called a state. States emerged in England and France over the period 1100-1300, and later in other parts of Europe. They showed early signs of constitutional government, but some countries veered towards authoritarianism under the financial stress of the fifteenth-century military revolution…

Why was Science So Successful in Europe?

In the time between the Scientific Revolution and World War II, almost every major advance in modern science was made by scientists who were culturally European…

How Science was Held Back in China and the Islamic World

Science must be integrated into the fabric of society — institutionalized — if it is to succeed over the longer term. Science was successfully institutionalized in Europe during the twelfth century. China and the Islamic world were at different times the world leader in science, but neither society institutionalized it, and science eventually faltered in both societies…

Economic Ideology and the Glorious Revolution

The Glorious Revolution changed the way that the English thought about their economy. The proponents of an economic ideology that justified the power of the landowners became less influential. The proponents of an ideology that emphasized the value of labour, and the role of manufacturing and trade in realizing this value, became more influential…

A History of Religious Toleration

The First Amendment was the culmination of a centuries-long struggle in which the advocates of religious toleration risked their livelihoods, their citizenship, and even their lives. This struggle began in the sixteenth century…

The Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was influenced by both the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment…

The Nineteenth-Century Rules for Growth

Over the course of the Industrial Revolution, Britain became an industrial superpower. Other countries had to find policies that would allow them to develop their industry despite Britain’s enormous first-mover advantage. These policies necessarily involved protectionist trade policies and government intervention…

Why Nations Fail: 
Extractive and Inclusive Institutions

Acemoglu and Robinson’s goal is to explain why some nations are rich and others are poor. They present a theory based on the interaction between political and economic institutions. Casual empiricism suggests that its explanatory power is quite strong…

Why Nations Fail:
 Theory is Tidy, History is Messy

Acemoglu and Robinson argue that sustained growth is almost always attained in a particular way: inclusive political institutions develop first, followed by inclusive economic institutions, followed by growth. They recognize the boldness of their claim…