Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation

Groningen Growth and Development Centre

Faculty of Economics and Business
Historical Development Modern Times

Modern Times

European Capitalism in the Second Industrial Revolution 1900-1950

NWO project 2009-2013, nr. 360-53-100, H.J. de Jong

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 – Dr. N.E.S. Bos, MSc, British Failure? Britain’s Relative Economic Decline in an International Context, 1936-1970 (Groningen 2015)


  • Bakker, G., N. Crafts, and P. Woltjer (2019). “The Sources of Growth in a Technologically Progressive Economy: the United States, 1899-1941”. Economic Journal, Vol. 129, No. 622, pp. 2267–2294.
  • Baten, J. & H.J. de Jong (2015), “Internationale Vergleiche,” In Th. Rahlf (ed.) Deutschland in Daten. Zeitreihen zur Historischen Statistik, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn, pp. 304-319.
  • Crafts, N. and P. Woltjer (2020). “Growth Accounting in Economic History: Findings, Lessons, and New Directions”. Journal of Economic Surveys, forthcoming.
  • Frankema, E., P. Woltjer, and J.P. Smits (2013). “Changing Economic Leadership: A New Benchmark of Sector Productivity in the United States and Western Europe, ca. 1910”. Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 80–113.
  • Fremdling, R., H. de Jong & M.P. Timmer (2007), “British and German Manufacturing Productivity Compared: A New Benchmark for 1935/36 Based on Double Deflated Value Added.” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 67, No.2 (June), pp. 350-378.
  • Inklaar, R., H. de Jong & R. Gouma (2011), “Did technology shocks drive the Great Depression? Explaining Cyclical Productivity Movements in U.S. Manufacturing, 1919-1939”, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 71, No. 4 (December), pp. 827-858.
  • Inklaar, R., H. de Jong & R. Gouma (2016), “Technology shocks and the Great Depression: note”, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 76, no. 3 (September), pp. 934-936.
  • Jong, H.J. de & J. Baten (2015), “International Comparisons”, In Th. Rahlf (ed.) German Time Series Dataset 1834-2012.
  • Jong, H.J. de & J.P. Smits (2008), “Changing patterns of Competitiveness in Dutch manufacturing During the Twentieth Century: Factor or Technology Driven?” in M. Müller and T. Myllyntaus (ed.) Pathbreakers: Small European Countries Responding to Globalisation and Deglobalisation (Bern: Fritz Lang), pp. 89-112.
  • Jong, H.J. de & P.J. Woltjer (2011), “Depression dynamics: a new estimate of the Anglo-American productivity gap in the interwar period.” The Economic History Review, Vol. 64, No.2 (May), pp. 472-492.
  • Jong, H.J. de & J.L. van Zanden (2014), “Debates on Industrialisation and Economic Growth in the Netherlands” The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 85-109.
  • Timmer, M.P., J. Veenstra, and P. Woltjer (2016). “The Yankees of Europe? A New View on Technology and Productivity in German Manufacturing in the Early Twentieth Century”. Journal of Economic History, Vol. 76, No. 3, pp. 874–908.
  • Veenstra, J. (2015) “Output growth in German manufacturing, 1907–1936. A reinterpretation of time-series evidence”. Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 57, No. 7, pp. 38-49.
  • Veenstra, J.& de Jong, H. (2016), “A Tale of Two Tails: Establishment Size and Labour Productivity in United States and German Manufacturing at the Start of the Twentieth Century”,Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 56, No. 2 (June), pp. 198-220.
  • Woltjer, P. (2015). “Taking Over: A New Appraisal of the Anglo-American Productivity Gap and the Nature of American Economic Leadership ca. 1910”. Scandinavian Economic History Review, Vol. 63, No. 3, pp. 280–301.
  • Woltjer, P. (2018). “Frontier Analysis”. In M. Blum, & C. L. Colvin (Eds.), An Economist’s Guide to Economic History, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Chap. 48, pp. 417–424.
Last modified:23 November 2021 12.10 p.m.