Growth that Makes Us Richer and Growth that Doesn’t

Economists distinguish between two kinds of growth, extensive and intensive. Extensive growth raises a nation’s total output, but doesn’t make the populace better off and can easily make it worse off. Intensive growth, on the other hand, raises the average person’s standard of living…

Malthus on Population and Human Welfare

A continuously rising standard of living would have been an alien concept to anyone living in Europe (or anywhere else) before 1500. People lived and worked much as their parents and grandparents had, and most of them produced food…

Why Were the Americas So Underdeveloped when Europeans Reached Them?

Mesopotamia at 1500 BC looks much like Mesoamerica at 1000 AD. The Eurasians had three thousand years to build upon their Mesopotamian foundations before the coming together of the New and Old Worlds. The Americans, by contrast, had only five hundred years…

The Industrial Revolution

Britain experienced a period of rapid technological innovation during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The way in which work was done changed radically, and British goods rose to dominance in markets around the world…

The Steam Engine

The steam engine is generally considered to be the most revolutionary invention of the Industrial Revolution. It would power a new generation of industrial machinery; and it would give rise to two transportation technologies, railways and steamships, that would stitch the world together…

Why Did the Industrial Revolution Happen in Britain in the Eighteenth Century?

The central feature of the Industrial Revolution was technological innovation on an unprecedented scale, so explaining the time and place of the innovation is tantamount to explaining the time and place of the Industrial Revolution. Why did this wave of innovation occur in Britain in the eighteenth century?

The Division of the World

W. Arthur Lewis explains how the world divided into manufacturers and primary producers…

How Modern Science Came to China

China was not exposed to Euclid’s geometry until the arrival of the Jesuits in the late sixteenth century. It was not exposed to Newtonian mechanics until 1849, more than 160 years after the publication of Principia

Technological Progress and Economies of Scale

From the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, one of the keys to growth was the exploitation of technologies that displayed increasing returns to scale…