During the first half of the twentieth century Europe lost its position of economic leadership to the United States. This shift is probably the most significant economic development of this era, aside from the Great Depression. But it has never been quite understood how and why it happened. This project embarks on a new direction in the study of comparative economic history by making detailed quantitative analyses of technological competence and economic performance in European countries for three benchmark years (1910, 1935 and 1950) on the level of industrial branches.
What were the reasons why Europe lost track, can we identify in what technologies or industries this became visible, and how can we account for the effects of the world wars and the Great Depression? How can we analyze the interactions between these shocks and the long run forces of welfare growth? This project analyses the sectoral composition and sectoral growth patterns in the European economies. It includes a systematic analysis of levels of economic welfare and productivity in manufacturing branches and industry-related services.
Combining the benchmarks with existing national data on long term development of industrial branches (see e.g. the GGDC Historical National Accounts Database) provides a dynamic view of convergence and divergence on the level of sectors and industries. This will improve our understanding of the relation between technology and the European pattern of industrialisation and welfare growth in comparison with the United States. The research is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).
- PhD project 1 – Dr. P.J. Woltjer, The Roaring Thirties: Productivity Growth and Technological Change in Great Britain and the United States during the Early Twentieth Century (Groningen 2013)
- PhD project 2 – Dr. J. Veenstra, Missed Opportunities? Germany and the Transatlantic Labor-Productivity Gap, 1900–1940 (Groningen 2014)
- PhD project 3 – N.E.S. Bos, MSc, British Failure? Britain’s Relative Economic Decline in an International Context, 1936-1970 (forthcoming)
- The Yankees of Europe? A New View on Technology and Productivity in German Manufacturing in the Early Twentieth Century
- Subsidiary activity: Groningen Joint Economic History (GJEH) seminar series
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