Department of Economics

Quantitative Economic History

Quantitative Economic History asks questions about the demand and supply of goods and services, costs of production, levels of income, distribution of wealth, the volume and direction of investment, structure of overseas trade, and the economic use of resources land. As a result we gain an understanding of the impact of social and economic policies, and the evolution of living standards and human well-being across the centuries.

Given the current economic austerity in the UK and other European countries, and the raft of economic challenges facing contemporary developing countries, understanding past economic activity can help to shed light on questions of relevance to economic policy makers today.  

Quantitative Economic History research involves unearthing and digitising archive records; such as household surveys and military records, and developing sophisticated ways of measuring social indicators and establishing causality in non-experimental data.  The analysis of these large data sets helps to clarify what happened over years of socio-economic development, what impact policy decisions had, and whether this was causal or incidental.

This group of researchers has a very strong track record in research into the evolution of living standards, including work on income distribution, nutrition, health and housing.  A project investigating British Living Standards 1900-1960 developed an open access online resource devoted to the study of British living standards and household expenditures during the first half of the twentieth century. The team is now extending this project to analyse living standards and income inequality around the world 1860-1960.

We focus is mostly on the period post-1850. Our projects include:

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