nep-his New Economics Papers
on Business, Economic and Financial History
Issue of 2006‒08‒12
fourteen papers chosen by
Bernardo Batiz-Lazo
Bristol Business School

  1. Not guilty? Agriculture in the 1920s and the Great Depression By Giovanni Federico
  3. Sudden Stops, Financial Crises, and Original Sin in Emerging Countries: Déjà vu? By Michael D. Bordo
  4. Electricity Reform in Chile Lessons for Developing Countries By Michael Pollitt
  5. Becker’s Theories of Marriage and the Shrinking Role of Demand and Supply Models By Shoshana Grossbard
  6. Nativity and income distribution in frontier Utah communities By L. Israelsen
  7. "The Local Geographic Origins of Russian-Jewish Immigrants, Circa 1900" By Joel Perlmann
  8. Disaggregated Productivity Growth and Technological Progress in the interpretation of Spanish Economic Growth, 1958-1975 By Mª Teresa Sanchis Llopis
  9. "Banking, Finance, and Money: A Socioeconomics Approach" By L. Randall Wray
  11. A 50 años de la Curva de Kuznets: Crecimiento Económico y Distribución del Ingreso en Uruguay y otros Países de Nuevo Asentamiento desde 1870 By Luis Bertola
  12. Respuestas empresariales en el País Vasco ante la crisis económica de 1921 By Juan Carlos Rojo Cagigal
  13. Sobre a filosofia moral de Adam Smith By Hugo E. A. da Gama Cerqueira
  14. Railroads and Local Economic Development: The United States in the 1850s By Michael R. Haines; Robert A. Margo

  1. By: Giovanni Federico
    Abstract: Agricultural distress in the 1920s is routinely quoted among the causes of the Great Depression. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom. World agriculture was not plagued by overproduction and falling terms of trade. The indebtedness of American farmers, a legacy of the boom years 1919-1921, did jeopardize the rural banks, but the relation between their crises, the banking panic of 1930 and the Great Depression is tenuous at best.
    Date: 2005–05
  2. By: Jeffrey G. Williamson
    Abstract: Between 1810 and 1940, a large GDP per capita gap appeared between the industrial core and the poor periphery, the latter producing, increasingly, primary products. Over the same period, the terms of trade facing the periphery underwent a secular boom then bust, peaking in the 1870s or 1890s. These terms of trade trends appear to have been exogenous to the periphery. Additionally, the terms of trade facing the periphery exhibited relatively high volatility. Are these correlations spurious, or are they causal? This Figuerola Lecture, to be given at Carlos III University (Madrid) , argues that they are causal, that secular growth and volatility in the terms of trade had asymmetric effects on core and periphery. On the upswing, the secular rise in its terms of trade had powerful de - industrialization effects in the periphery. Over the full cycle 1810-1940, terms of trade volatility suppressed accumulation and growth in the periphery as well.
    Date: 2005–10
  3. By: Michael D. Bordo
    Abstract: The current pattern of sudden stops and financial crises in emerging markets has great resonance to events in the first era of globalization, from 1870-1913. In this paper I present descriptive statistics on capital flows, current account reversals and financial crises during the period 1870-1913 and compare them with the recent experience. I analyze the incidence of crises and measure their effects on real output losses. Furthermore, I consider the influence of openness to trade, original sin and currency mismatches on the pattern of sudden stops and financial crises. I find strikingly similar patterns across both eras of globalization. The pre-1914 sudden stops were associated with significant output losses comparable with the recent events, and their effects differed considerably depending on a country’s economic circumstances, just as they do today.
    JEL: E44 F32 N1 N20
    Date: 2006–07
  4. By: Michael Pollitt
    Abstract: Chile was the first country in the world to implement a comprehensive reform of its electricity sector in the recent period. Among developing countries only Argentina has had a comparably comprehensive and successful reform. This paper traces the history of the Chilean reform, which began in 1982, and assesses its progress and its lessons. We conclude that the reform has been very successful. We suggest lessons for the generation, transmission and distribution sectors, as well as the economic regulation of electricity and the general institutional environment favourable to reform. We note that while the initial market structure and regulatory arrangements did give rise to certain problems, the overall experience argues strongly for the private ownership and operation of the electricity industry.
    Date: 2004–09
  5. By: Shoshana Grossbard (Department of Economics, San Diego State University)
    Abstract: This paper argues that Gary Becker has been a leader in the economics of marriage not only as a pioneer but also as a leader who influenced the work of other economists who entered this field over at least two decades. A comprehensive survey of economic research on marriage is presented for the years 1970-1993. A distinction is drawn between earlier entrants and later entrants, the dividing line being 1980, coinciding with the publication of Becker’s seminal Treatise on the Family. In his first article on marriage in the JPE in 1973, Becker gave more prominence to Demand & Supply [D&S] models than he later did in the Treatise. It appears that a similar movement away from D&S models is observed among later entrants. This is but one indication of Becker’s leadership in the economics of marriage in the period 1980-1993. Other indications are also discussed.
    Date: 2006–01
  6. By: L. Israelsen
    Abstract: Careful studies of the distribution of income in nineteenth-century United States have been hampered by a paucity of available data. This study undertakes the analysis of factors influencing the distribution of personal income in communities in the Great Basin region of the western United States for the years 1860-61 and 1870. The study utilizes estimates of full income by individual based on information contained in the General Economic Records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, demographic and economic data from the manuscript censuses of 1860 and 1870, and other relevant data from contemporary sources. Mean income and Gini ratios are calculated for nearly all Great Basin communities, and econometric analysis is undertaken to identify the impact on income distribution of changes in mean income, community size, crop destruction by grasshoppers, and the percentage of the population born in non-English speaking countries. The econometric results are compared to the results of an earlier study that looked at factors influencing income inequality for the Great Basin as a whole over the period 1855-1900. Of particular interest is the impact of ethnic mix on relative income inequality. While the earlier study found that Gini ratios for the Great Basin region rose as the fraction of the population born in non-English speaking countries increased, the current study finds that Gini ratios first rose, then fell as the percentage of the community born in non-English speaking countries rose. At the territorial level, grasshopper infestation increased relative inequality, but at the community level it decreased inequality. The completion of the transcontinental railroad allowed a few individuals in urban communities to earn large incomes in capital-intensive activities, increasing community income inequality, ceteris paribus, but community access to the railroad had a leveling effect on labor income and product prices, reducing community income inequality.
  7. By: Joel Perlmann
    Abstract: This working paper concerns the local origins of Russian-Jewish immigrants to the United States, circa 1900. New evidence is drawn from a large random sample of Russian-Jewish immigrant arrivals in the United States. It provides information on origins not merely by large regions, or even by the provinces of the Pale of Settlement (where nearly all Russian Jews lived), some 25 in number; rather, most analysis is conducted in terms of some 230 districts that made up the administrative subdivisions of provinces. The sample evidence is coordinated with district-level data from the detailed publications of the 1897 Census of the Russian Empire. Finally, all of this evidence has been entered into digitized maps.
    Date: 2006–08
  8. By: Mª Teresa Sanchis Llopis
    Abstract: Spanish economic records in terms of GDP growth and convergence to European levels in the sixties, provide an excellent opportunity to look at a central question underlying in the interpretation of any process of economic growth. The relevance of industrial specific technological progress is confronted to a general and multifaceted productivity change coming from a variety of sectors and causes. This paper exploits sectoral growth accounting methodology in two different ways in order to answer this crucial question revisited recently by historiography with reference to British Industrial Revolution and to Information and Telecommunications Technologies. First, we calculate TFP growth following the Kendrick approach (1961) and using four input-output tables corresponding to 1958, 1962, 1970 and 1975 disaggregated at 25 productive branches. And Second, we examine the impact of electricity and electric machinery and equipment as a General Purpose Technology (GPT) in Spanish economic growth.
    Date: 2005–05
  9. By: L. Randall Wray
    Abstract: This paper briefly summarizes the orthodox approach to banking, finance, and money, and then points the way toward an alternative based on socioeconomics. It argues that the alternative approach is better fitted to not only the historical record, but also sheds more light on the nature of money in modern economies. In orthodoxy, money is something that reduces transaction costs, simplifying “economic life” by lubricating the market mechanism. Indeed, this is the unifying theme in virtually all orthodox approaches to banking, finance, and money: banks, financial instruments, and even money itself originate to improve market efficiency. However, the orthodox story of money's origins is rejected by most serious scholars outside the field of economics as historically inaccurate. Further, the orthodox sequence of “commodity (gold) money” to credit and fiat money does not square with the historical record. Finally, historians and anthropologists have long disputed the notion that markets originated spontaneously from some primeval propensity, rather emphasizing the important role played by authorities in creating and organizing markets. By contrast, this paper locates the origin of money in credit and debt relations, with the money of account emphasized as the numeraire in which credits and debts are measured. Importantly, the money of account is chosen by the state, and is enforced through denominating tax liabilities in the state’s own currency. What is the significance of this? It means that the state can take advantage of its role in the monetary system to mobilize resources in the public interest, without worrying about “availability of finance.” The alternative view of money leads to quite different conclusions regarding monetary and fiscal policy, and it rejects even long-run neutrality of money. It also generates interesting insights on exchange rate regimes and international payments systems.
    Date: 2006–07
  10. By: Javier Ruiz-Castillo
    Abstract: This paper is a review of the literature on the ranking of centers of excellence in economics according to the papers published in specialized journals that have an anonymous evaluation procedure. There are two objectives: (1) to examine the evolution during the 1990’s of certain features of economic research, such as the gap that exists between the United States and the rest of the world, the dominant position of the United Kingdom within Europe, and the low productivity of economic scholars everywhere; and (2) to document the tremendous progress that Spanish research centers underwent during this period.
    Date: 2006–05
  11. By: Luis Bertola
    Abstract: Este trabajo aborda las tendencias de la distribución del ingreso en Uruguay desde aproximadamente 1870, recurriendo a diferentes fuentes: los movimientos de los precios relativos entre 1870 y 2000 (rentas/salarios, alquileres/salarios, términos de intercambio), estimaciones del ingreso personal de los principales sectores de actividad económica (1908-1966) y las más recientes estimaciones en base al ingreso de los hogares de los años ’60. Los resultados se discuten en diálogo con la curva de Kuznets buscando ampliar la perspectiva mediante comparaciones con países de nuevo asentamiento: Argentina, Australia y Nueva Zelanda. Se encuentra un patrón común a estos países: creciente desigualdad durante la primera globalización, una tendencia igualitaria desde los ‘20 y profundizada durante la ISI, y una nueva tendencia a la desigualdad en la segunda globalización. En Uruguay no aparecen correlaciones estables entre crecimiento y equidad, ni en el largo plazo, ni en las fases de los movimientos cíclicos tipo Kuznets.
    Date: 2005–05
  12. By: Juan Carlos Rojo Cagigal
    Abstract: La crisis de 1921 cerró bruscamente en la economía española el ciclo bélico que había comenzado a mediados de 1915. En este trabajo se ofrece una primera aproximación al impacto de esta crisis internacional sobre la economía de una región industrializada de la periferia, el País Vasco. En primer lugar se repasan sus características más notables, luego se analiza su alcance en sectores concretos –siderometalurgia, industria mecánica y construcción naval, otras industrias, minería y navieras–, y finalmente se estudian las estrategias empresariales que las elites económicas pusieron en marcha: la diversificación, la cartelización de determinados sectores, la reducción de los costes laborales, si existieron intentos de modernización del equipamiento tecnológico, desarrollo de redes comerciales y de marketing o construcción de estructuras de organización más eficientes. En general, se trata de comprobar –a través del uso de fuentes empresariales– si, a parte de la búsqueda del arancel, los grandes empresarios industriales españoles desarrollaron estrategias de modernización para hacer frente a la crisis de 1921.
    Date: 2004–12
  13. By: Hugo E. A. da Gama Cerqueira (Cedeplar-UFMG)
    Abstract: This article examines Adam Smith’s Theory of moral sentiments. Taking as its point of departure the moral philosophy of the Scottish enlightenment, the paper presents the central argument of Smith’s Theory. It analyses the concepts of “sympathy” and “impartial spectator” and points to the originality of Smith’s argument on the relationship between morality and sociality.
    Keywords: Adam Smith; sympathy; impartial spectator; moral Newtonianism; Scottish enlightenment
    JEL: B30 B40
    Date: 2006–08
  14. By: Michael R. Haines; Robert A. Margo
    Abstract: We use county and individual-level data from 1850 and 1860 to examine the economic impact of gaining access to a railroad. Previous studies have found that rail access was positively correlated with the value of agricultural land at a point in time, and have interpreted this correlation as evidence that rail access chiefly benefitted agricultural land owners in the manner predicted by the Hekscher-Ohlin or Von Theunen models. We use a difference-in-difference strategy, comparing changes in outcomes in counties that gained rail access in the 1850s to those that either gained access earlier or did not have access before the Civil War. Most of the estimated effects are small and the signs are not wholly consistent with either model, under the null hypothesis that agriculture was the chief beneficiary of rail access. For example, we find that rail access appears to have increased urbanization, raised the likelihood of participation in the service sector, decreased agricultural yields, and reduced the share of improved acreage in total land area, opposite to the patterns predicted by either the Heckscher-Ohlin or Von Theunen models.
    JEL: N51 N71
    Date: 2006–07

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