New Economics Papers
on Business, Economic and Financial History
Issue of 2010‒10‒02
ten papers chosen by

  1. A History With Evidence: Income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony By Johan Fourie; Dieter von Fintel
  2. How and why does history matter for development policy ? By Woolcock, Michael; Szreter, Simon; Rao, Vijayendra
  3. General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth: Electricity Diffusion in the Manufacturing Sector Before WWII By Ristuccia, C.A.; Solomou, S.
  4. Path Dependence, Institutions and the Density of Economic Activities: Evidence from Italian Cities By Marco Percoco
  5. THE EUROPEAN INTEGRATION PROCESS By Chirimbu, Sebastian; Barbu, Mihaela
  6. Commitment and Conquest: The Case of British Rule in India By Mandar Oak; Anand Swamy
  7. Commodity and Credit in Upland Maharashtra By Sumit Guha
  8. Adam Smith: Managerial Insights from the Father of Economics By George Crowley; Russell S. Sobel
  9. The Problem of the Commons: Still Unsettled After 100 Years By Stavins, Robert N.
  10. The Impact of the Diffusion of a Financial Innovation on Company Performance: An Analysis of SWIFT Adoption By Susan Scott; John Van Reenen; Markos Zachariadis

  1. By: Johan Fourie; Dieter von Fintel
    Abstract: The arrival of European settlers at the Cape in 1652 marked the beginning of what would seemingly become an extremely unequal society, with ramifications into modern-day South Africa. In this paper, we measure the income inequality at three different points over the first century of Dutch rule at the Cape. What emerges from the study is a society characterised by severe inequality, with a relatively (and increasingly) poor farming population combined with pockets of wealth. The inequality is driven largely by wheat and, especially, wine production, which gave rise to an elite. Historical evidence supports our findings: Amongst others, the imposition of sumptuary laws in 1755 is closely correlated with a more segmented elite which includes both alcohol merchants and (wine) farmers. We compare these measures to those of other regions and time-periods in history. Although the exact level of inequality is determined to a large extent by our assumptions, the Cape Colony registers one of the highest Gini-coefficients in pre-industrial societies. This provides some support to verify the Engerman-Sokoloff hypothesis that initial levels of high inequality would give rise to growth-debilitating institutions, resulting in higher inequality and underdevelopment.
    Date: 2010
  2. By: Woolcock, Michael; Szreter, Simon; Rao, Vijayendra
    Abstract: The consensus among scholars and policymakers that"institutions matter"for development has led inexorably to a conclusion that"history matters,"since institutions clearlyform and evolve over time. Unfortunately, however, the next logical step has not yet been taken, which is to recognize that historians (and not only economic historians) might also have useful and distinctive insights to offer. This paper endeavors to open and sustain a constructive dialogue between history -- understood as both"the past"and"the discipline"-- and development policy by (a) clarifying what the craft of historical scholarship entails, especially as it pertains to understanding causal mechanisms, contexts, and complex processes of institutional change; (b) providing examples of historical research that support, qualify, or challenge the most influential research (by economists and economic historians) in contemporary development policy; and (c) offering some general principles and specific implications that historians, on the basis of the distinctive content and method of their research, bring to development policy debates.
    Keywords: Cultural Policy,Economic Theory&Research,Population Policies,Cultural Heritage&Preservation,Development Economics&Aid Effectiveness
    Date: 2010–09–01
  3. By: Ristuccia, C.A.; Solomou, S.
    Abstract: This paper evaluates the diffusion of electricity within the context of a GPT perspective. The paper develops a new comparative data set on the usage of electricity in the manufacturing sectors of the US, Britain, France, Germany and Japan and proceeds to evaluate the hypotheses of a productivity slowdown and of a productivity bonus as postulated by many existing GPT models.
    Keywords: Copyright; General Purpose Technologies, Economic Growth, Economic History, Productivity, Long Swings
    JEL: N11 N12 N13 N14 N60 O40
    Date: 2010–04–30
  4. By: Marco Percoco (Department of Institutional Analysis and Public Management and CERTeT Bocconi University)
    Abstract: In recent years a growing body of literature has begun to consider the possible presence of path dependence in the development processes of countries. This phenomenon has always been recognized in regional and urban studies because the path of development almost naturally follows a history-dependent spatial diffusion influenced by both physical geography and the quality of institutions. In this paper, I consider the case of firm concentration in Italy and its impact on local development. A large and growing literature has argued in favour of persisting effects of past institutions on current outcomes. Hence, in order to identify the impact of firm density on income, I use instruments from the history of a set of Italian cities: namely the presence of a university and status as a free-city state in the Early Middle Ages. I first show that those two variables had an important effect on the process of urban development between 1300 and 1861, together with favourable geographic conditions. Then, when I use these instruments to predict firm density, I find that the elasticity of income to firm density is close to 0.1. This result is interpreted as providing evidence of the historical roots of agglomeration economies in Italy.
    Keywords: Path dependence, Urban development, Geography, Institutions, Firm density
    JEL: O18 R12
    Date: 2010–09
  5. By: Chirimbu, Sebastian (Universitatea Spiru Haret, Facultatea de Finante si Banci); Barbu, Mihaela (Universitatea Spiru Haret, Facultatea de Finante si Banci)
    Abstract: The idea of a united Europe was supported for centuries by leaders and intellectuals alike, but only after World War II European states institutionalized forms of international cooperation, with expertise in specific areas such as: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation, the European Economic Community, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Western European Union (WEU). These organisations have established a closer solidarity among European states, while exhibiting the classic features of a union of states and intergovernmental cooperation. The European Union has witnessed during the last two decades a number of major changes and has taken a new look through a series of successive treaties (the Treaty of Maastricht to which the Union devotes its name, the Treat of Amsterdam, the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Lisbon).
    Keywords: Integration; the European Union; treaties; pillars
    JEL: A11
    Date: 2010–09–26
  6. By: Mandar Oak (University of Adelaide); Anand Swamy (Williams College)
    Abstract: Contemporary historians usually attribute the East India Company.s military success in India to its military strength, and to the mutual dis- trust of Indian regimes. We argue these explanations, though correct, are incomplete. The credibility of the Company.s commitments, even though imperfect, was essential to its success.
    Keywords: N45, N40
    Date: 2010–07
  7. By: Sumit Guha
    Abstract: The notion that the backwardness of Indian Agriculture may be explained in terms of the institutional, and more particularly, the market structure within its functions, is not wholly novel one, elements of such an explanation being found in a number of 19th century writings on the subject. This approach has been recently applied by several authors. [Working Paper No. 221]
    Keywords: backwardness, Indian, Agriculture, institutional, functions,
    Date: 2010
  8. By: George Crowley (Department of Economics, West Virginia University); Russell S. Sobel (Department of Economics, West Virginia University)
    Abstract: This paper applies the ideas found in the work of Adam Smith, the preeminent 18th century economist, to the field of management. Adam Smith was the first person to identify specialization and the division of labor as the main drivers of productivity. He also conceptualized the 'invisible hand principle' which explains how, under the proper set of incentives, self-interested individuals are directed to pursue activities that benefit the whole of society. Both ideas are of utmost importance in the field of management. Specifically, successful managers are those who are able to create good 'rules of the game' which align the incentives of labor with the goals of the firm. Smith's contributions provide a foundation for the division of labor and demonstrate the importance of establishing the right 'institutions' within a firm.
    Keywords: Adam Smith, Division of labor, Invisible hand
    Date: 2010
  9. By: Stavins, Robert N.
    Abstract: The problem of the commons is more important to our lives and thus more central to economics than a century ago when Katharine Coman led off the first issue of the American Economic Review. As the U.S. and other economies have grown, the carrying-capacity of the planet — in regard to natural resources and environmental quality — has become a greater concern, particularly for common-property and open-access resources. The focus of this article is on some important, unsettled problems of the commons. Within the realm of natural resources, there are special challenges associated with renewable resources, which are frequently characterized by open access.An important example is the degradation of open-access fisheries. Critical commons problems are also associated with environmental quality. A key contribution of economics has been the development of market-based approaches to environmental protection. These instruments are key to addressing the ultimate commons problem of the twenty-first century — global climate change.
    Keywords: common-property resource, open-access resource, fisheries, global climate change
    JEL: Q22 Q28 Q50 Q54 Q58
    Date: 2010–09–22
  10. By: Susan Scott; John Van Reenen; Markos Zachariadis
    Abstract: How does a major financial network innovation influence firm performance? Despite muchspeculation we have little hard quantitative evidence about the impact of technology diffusionin financial services. In this paper we use the entire adoption history for SWIFT (the Societyfor Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication - standards provider and messagingcarrier) matched to bank-level panel data for the US, Canada and 27 European countries. Ourdataset covers almost 7,000 banks (including 1,689 SWIFT adopters) between 1998 and2005. We find that adoption appears to have large effects on profitability, but it takes severalyears before any positive return is discernible, consistent with the idea of significantcomplementarities between new technologies and firm organization. The profitability effectoperates by both raising sales and decreasing operating costs and is greater for smaller firmsthan larger firms. Although the long-run effects are similar, US and UK banks appear to reapthe benefits from adoption more quickly than their Continental European counterparts. This isconsistent with the idea that the impact of information and communication technologies isstronger in the US than Europe due to lower adjustment costs.
    Keywords: Diffusion, profitability, banks, SWIFT
    JEL: O33 N20
    Date: 2010–08

General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.