The wealth and poverty of nations reconsidered

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Universita delgli Studio di Roma


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 1,202,938




Monograph Fellowships


The project looks at the core drivers of modern economic growth. Traditional explanations point to technical progress as the root cause of the triggering event, the industrial revolution. Recent research suggests, however, that economic growth predates the industrial revolution by more than two centuries. The current project argues that the industrial revolution was prompted by 16th- and 17th-century working-class people who decided to increase their income-generating activities: to have fewer children: and to invest a growing share of resources in their children's education. More money increased the working class' demand for consumption goods, which inspired producers to search for more productive technologies. Better educated workers in turn helped more productive technologies to occur.


How economic growth first emerged will help scholars understand what the barriers to richer might be. For example, the project's explorations will advise third-world policy makers by highlighting the factors that persuaded women living in traditional (historical) societies to compress their childbearing years and to switch from raising many uneducated children to fewer and more educated ones.


Drawing on newly-collected data, mainly from historical England, the project will provide some of the earliest evidence of contemporary western family- and work-patterns. It will show how men gradually increased the length of their working year in order to earn more money. It will also demonstrate women's growing compression of their childbearing years in exchange for income-generating activities. It will show that lower fertility was achieved, even before the advent of modern contraceptives, by using delayed marriage, shorter birth-spacing, and a pre-menopause completion of women's childbearing years. It will further illustrate that families that had fewer children also had children that were better educated and more often employed in skilled, high-status positions.

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