Cliometrics ( // , also // ), sometimes called new economic history or econometric history, is the systematic application of economic theory, econometric techniques, and other formal or mathematical methods to the study of history (especially social and economic history). It is a quantitative approach to economic history (as opposed to qualitative or ethnographic).
There has been a revival in 'new economic history' since the late 1990s.
The new economic history originated in 1958 with The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South by American economists Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer. The book would cause a firestorm of controversy with its claim, based on statistical data, that slavery would not have ended in the absence of the U.S. Civil War, as the practice was economically efficient and highly profitable for slaveowners.
The term cliometrics—which derives from Clio, who was the muse of history—was originally coined by mathematical economist Stanley Reiter in 1960.Cliometrics became better known when Douglass North and William Parker became the editors of the Journal of Economic History in 1960. The Cliometrics Meetings also began to be held around this time at Purdue University and are still held annually in different locations.
North, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, would go on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in October 1993 along with Robert William Fogel, himself often described as the father of modern econometric history and Neo-historicals.The two were honoured "for having renewed research in economic history;" the Academy noted that "they were pioneers in the branch of economic history that has been called the 'new economic history,' or cliometrics." Fogel and North received the prize for turning the theoretical and statistical tools of modern economics on the historical past: on subjects ranging from slavery and railroads to ocean shipping and property rights. North was heralded as a pioneer in the "new" institutional history. In the Nobel announcement, specific mention was made of a 1968 paper on ocean shipping, in which North showed that organizational changes played a greater role in increasing productivity than did technological change. Fogel is especially noted for using careful empirical work to overturn conventional wisdom.
With that being said, the new economic history revolution is thought to have begun in the mid-1960s, where areas of key interest included transportation history,slavery, and agriculture. The discipline was resisted as many incumbent economic historians were either historians or economists who had very little connection to economic modeling or statistical techniques. According to cliometric economist Claudia Goldin, the success of the cliometric revolution had as an unintended consequence the disappearance of economic historians from history departments. As economic historians started using the same tools as economists, they started to seem more like other economists. In Goldin's words, "the new economic historians extinguished the other side." The other side nearly disappeared altogether, with only a few remaining in history departments and business schools. However, some new economic historians did, in fact, begin research around this time, among them were Kemmerer and Larry Neal (a student of Albert Fishlow, a leader of the cliometric revolution) from Illinois, Paul Uselding from Johns Hopkins, Jeremy Atack from Indiana, and Thomas Ulen from Stanford.
Cliometrics would be introduced to Germany by American-born and -educated Richard H. Tilly in the 1970s.The Cliometric Society, a group to encourage and further the study of cliometrics, was founded in 1983.
There has been a revival in 'new economic history' since the late 1990s.The number of papers on economic history published in the top economics journals has increased in the last decades, comprising 6.6% of articles in the American Economic Review and 10.8% of articles in the Quarterly Journal of Economics for the period 2004-2014. Today, cliometric approaches are standard in several journals, including the Journal of Economic History , Explorations in Economic History , the European Review of Economic History , and Cliometrica .
Cliometrics has had sharp critics. Francesco Boldizzoni summarized a common critique by arguing that cliometrics is based on the false assumption that the laws of neo-classical economics always apply to human activity. Those laws, he says, are based on rational choice and maximization as they operate in well-developed markets, and do not apply to economies other than those of the capitalist West in the modern era. Instead, Boldizzoni argues that the workings of economies are determined by social, political and cultural conditions specific to each society and time period.
On the other hand, Claude Diebolt (2016) argued that cliometrics is mature and well accepted by scholars as an "indispensable tool" in economic history.He says most scholars agree that economic theory, combined with new data as well as historical and statistical methods are necessary to formulate problems precisely, to draw conclusions from postulates and to gain insight into complex processes in order to close the gap between Geisteswissenschaften and Naturwissenschaften, i.e. to move from the historical verstehen or understanding side to the economic erklären or explaining side or, much better, mixing both approaches for the achievement of a unified approach of the social sciences. At the applied level, cliometrics is accepted as the way to measure variables and estimate parameters.
A criticism of Cliometrics by Joseph T. Salerno, based on the perspective of the Austrian School of economics, especially that of Ludwig von Mises, can be found in his Introduction to Murray N. Rothbard's A History of Money and Banking in the United States .
Cliometrics and cliodynamics share the scientific ambition of using quantitative tools and historical data to test general historical principles. Both fields endeavor to gather large amounts of historical data across big samples. However, the two fields also differ in several ways.
Cliodynamics maintains a close relationship with the natural sciences, often employing dominant methods from the natural sciences such as differential-equation models, power-law relations, and agent-based models. Evolutionary game theory and social network analysis are also frequently employed by cliodynamicists, but less often by cliometricians. Cliodynamicists also tend to include factors associated with ecological context and biological determinants in their models.
Economic history is the academic study of economies or economic events of the past. Research is conducted using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and the application of economic theory to historical situations and institutions. The field can encompass a wide variety of topics, including equality, finance, technology, labour, and business. It emphasizes historicizing the economy itself, analyzing it as a dynamic force and attempting to provide insights into the way it is structured and conceived.
Simon Smith Kuznets was an American economist and statistician who received the 1971 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for his empirically founded interpretation of economic growth which has led to new and deepened insight into the economic and social structure and process of development."
Douglass Cecil North was an American economist known for his work in economic history. He was the co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In the words of the Nobel Committee, North and Fogel "renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change."
The Chicago school of economics is a neoclassical school of economic thought associated with the work of the faculty at the University of Chicago, some of whom have constructed and popularized its principles. Milton Friedman and George Stigler are considered the leading scholars of the Chicago school.
Trygve Magnus Haavelmo, born in Skedsmo, Norway, was an economist whose research interests centered on econometrics. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1989.
Robert William Fogel was an American economic historian and scientist, and winner of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. As of his death, he was the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions and director of the Center for Population Economics (CPE) at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. He is best known as an advocate of new economic history (cliometrics) – the use of quantitative methods in history.
Thomas John Sargent is an American economist and the W.R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Business at New York University. He specializes in the fields of macroeconomics, monetary economics, and time series econometrics. As of 2020, he ranks as the 29th most cited economist in the world. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2011 together with Christopher A. Sims for their "empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy".
Stanley Lewis Engerman is an economist and economic historian at the University of Rochester. He received his Ph.D. in economics in 1962 from Johns Hopkins University. Engerman is known for his quantitative historical work along with Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Fogel. His first major book, co-authored with Robert Fogel in 1974, was Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. This significant work, winner of the Bancroft Prize in American history, challenged readers to think critically about the economics of slavery. Engerman has also published over 100 articles and has authored, co-authored or edited 16 book-length studies.
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips was an American historian who largely defined the field of the social and economic history of the antebellum American South and slavery. Phillips concentrated on the large plantations that dominated the Southern economy, and he did not investigate the numerous small farmers who held few slaves. He concluded that plantation slavery produced great wealth, but was a dead end, economically, that left the South bypassed by the industrial revolution underway in the North.
Evsey David Domar was a Russian American economist, famous as developer of the Harrod–Domar model.
Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (1974) is a book by the economists Robert Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman. Asserting that slavery was an economically viable institution that had some benefits for African Americans, the book was reprinted in 1995 at its twentieth anniversary. First published a decade after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the book contradicted contemporary assessments of the effects of slavery on African Americans in the American South before the Civil War. It attracted widespread attention in the media and generated heated controversy and criticism for its methodology and conclusions.
John Komlos is an American economic historian of Hungarian descent and former holder of the Chair of Economic History at the University of Munich for eighteen years. In the 1980s, Komlos was instrumental in the emergence of anthropometric history, the study of the effect of economic development on human biological outcomes such as physical stature.
The Journal of Political Economy is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. Established by James Laurence Laughlin in 1892, it covers both theoretical and empirical economics. In the past, the journal published quarterly from its introduction through 1905, ten issues per volume from 1906 through 1921, and bimonthly from 1922 through 2019. The editor-in-chief is Magne Mogstad.
Social savings is a growth in accounting techniques in order to evaluate the historical implications of new technology on economic growth. Developed in 1950 by American economic historian and scientist Robert Fogel, explains the methodology works to estimate the cost-savings of the new technology compared with the next best alternative. The first oral presentation was at the 1960 Purdue Cliometrics meeting, and the first published version was in the Journal of economic history in 1962.
Stanley Reiter was an American author, economist, and Emeritus Professor at Northwestern University. Reiter was a leading pioneer in the field of mechanism design.
John Robert Meyer was an American economist and educator. Meyer is credited with creating the field of transport economics and was one of the pioneers of cliometrics.
Cliometrica is an academic journal about economic history. It follows the quantitative or formal approaches that have been called cliometrics or the new economic history, applied to any place and time. These formal approaches apply mathematical economic theory, model building, and statistical estimation.
The Economic History Association (EHA) was founded in 1940 to "encourage and promote teaching, research, and publication on every phase of economic history and to help preserve and administer materials for research in economic history". It publishes The Journal of Economic History with the Cambridge University Press, holds an annual meeting that usually takes place in September, and awards prizes and grants. It is also the home to the EH.Net Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History.
Anthropometric history is the study of the history of human height and weight. It has historical roots. In the 1830s, Adolphe Quetelet and Louis R. Villermé studied the physical stature of populations. In the 1960s, French historians analyzed the relationship between socio-economic variables and human height. Anthropometric history was established as field of study in the late 1970s when economic historians Robert Fogel, John Komlos, Richard Steckel and other academics began to study the history of human physical stature and its relationship to economic development. A branch of cliometrics, it uses trends and cross-sectional patterns in human physical stature to understand historical processes.
Charles Frederick Roos was an American economist who made contributions to mathematical economics. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society together with American economist Irving Fisher and Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch in 1930. He served as Secretary-Treasurer during the first year of the Society and was elected as President in 1948. He was director of research of the Cowles Commission from September 1934 to January 1937.
The 'new economic history', sometimes called economic history or cliometrics, is not often practiced in Europe. However, it is fair to say that efforts to apply statistical and mathematical models currently occupy the centre of the stage in American economic history.
Among the most recent of the changes in emphasis-today's new history-is the rise of the "new economic history" or, as it is variously called, econometric history or cliometric.
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