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Cliometrica

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The long-term evolution of economic history: evidence from the top five field journals (1927–2017)

  • Martina Cioni
  • Giovanni Federico
  • Michelangelo VastaEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

The growing appeal of the long-run perspective among economists and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Conrad and Meyer article (1958), which marked the official beginning of the Cliometric Revolution, have attracted a lot of interest on economic history. This paper explores the long-term development of economic history by analysing all the 6516 articles published in the top five international journals (Economic History Review, Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, European Review of Economic History and Cliometrica). Our main results are that the Cliometric Revolution took quite a long time to fully display its effects. We show that the conventional wisdom on the current state of the discipline seems a bit too optimistic. Economic history does not seem to be neither more comparative nor more focussed on peripheral countries. The historical periods studied do not change considerably, and the relevance of different topics did not change univocally. Most articles use some econometrics but only a minority feature advanced techniques. Economic history is indeed becoming more democratic, but its boundaries remain limited to the most advanced countries. Articles by authors from Continental Europe increased substantially, while that of North American declined. This change may be the harbinger of a new divergence between the two shores of the Atlantic, possibly related to the rise of a new paradigm, but it is too early to tell.

Keywords

Economic History Cliometric Revolution Top Journal in Economic History 

JEL Classification

N01 

1 Introduction

In recent times, economic historians have focused much on the history of the field, both for the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the article by Conrad and Meyer (1958) on the efficiency of slavery, which heralded the Cliometric Revolution, and for the more recent increase in the number of economic history articles in certain economics journals (Abramitzky 2015; Diebolt and Haupert 2018a). The latter phenomenon has been interpreted as an “integration of economic history into economics” (Diebolt and Haupert 2018b; Margo 2018). This is only part of the (recent) story, as a survey among the leading economic historians shows.1 We asked them their opinion about the “integration” and four other questions about the current state of the discipline. Only two-fifths of our respondents (39%) believe that economic history is becoming a branch of applied economics. In contrast, the answers to our other questions are almost unanimous: economic historians believe that economic history is becoming more comparative and focuses more on peripheral countries (94.8%), is widening its scope beyond its traditional core issues and periods (93.1%), is maintaining pace with the development and use of advanced econometric techniques (84.2%), and is becoming more “democratic” in terms of countries and institutional affiliations, with a clear shift towards international collaborations (90.9%).

These recent changes can be better appreciated if framed in the long-term history of the discipline. Most previous works have focused on methodological debates and on contributions of prominent scholars (Andreano 1970; Fogel and Elton 1984; Lyons et al. 2007; Boldizzoni 2011; Haupert 2016; Boldizzoni and Hudson 2016). In contrast, following the true cliometric tradition, this paper adopts a quantitative approach, analysing articles published in the five most important journals in economic history (henceforth T5-EH): the Economic History Review (EHR), the Journal of Economic History (JEH), Explorations in Economic History (EEH), the European Review of Economic History (EREH) and Cliometrica (CLIO). We are not the first to adopt this approach; however, previous works have dealt with a single journal, such as the EHR (Wrigley 1999), the JEH (Whaples 1991, 2002) and the Australian Economic History Review (Morgan and Shanahan 2010; Seltzer 2018), or with very specific research questions. Harte (1977) describes the publications in British economic history, including books. Di Vaio and Weisdorf (2010) and Ojala et al. (2017), respectively, explore the pattern of citations in a sample of leading economic history journals in 2007 and in two long-established business history journals, Business History and Business History Review. Seltzer and Hamermesh (2018) analyse the causes of the growth in co-authorship, Fourie and Gardner (2014) outline the growing interest in non-Western economic history, Eloranta et al. (2010) analyse the spread of quantitative methods in business history, and Margo (2018) and Wehrheim (2018) outline the diffusion of advanced statistical techniques in economic history journals. In contrast, we address many issues with a comprehensive database of all 6516 articles published in the T5-EH from their establishment (1927 for EHR, 1941 for JEH, 1969 for EEH, 1997 for EREH and 2007 for CLIO) to 2017.

We explain the selection of the T5-EH in Sect. 2 with a citation analysis, and we describe our database in Sect. 3. We outline the changes in topics, areas, historical periods and techniques of all articles in Sect. 4, while in Sect. 5 we focus on the changes in authorship and on the country distribution of economic historians. Section 6 concludes.

2 A bibliometric analysis of economic history journals

A recent survey (Poelmans and Rousseau 2016) shows how the affiliation of economic historians affects the choice of an outlet for their publications.2 Economic historians working in economics department aim at publishing their works as articles in international journals with impact factor (IF). They regard journals without IF as the second best and books with major international publishing houses only as their third option. This ranking is deeply different for their colleagues working in history departments, who deem books with international publishing houses as the best option and rank journals according to their general standing instead of their IF. Unfortunately, there is no comparable survey for the 1950s; however, all anecdotal evidence suggests that the pre-eminence of journals outlets for advanced research in economic history is in itself a product of the Cliometric Revolution. The first journal in economic and social history, the Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, was founded in 1903, the first business history journal (the Bulletin of the Business Historical Society, renamed Business History Review in 1954) in 1926, and the first journal specialized in economic history, the EHR, one year later. However, economic historians traditionally published their main works in books, and earlier cliometricians imitated them (Margo 2018). The two 1993 Nobel laureates, Robert Fogel and Douglas North, published most of their path-breaking researches in books (Fogel 1964, 1989; Fogel and Engerman 1974; North and Thomas 1973; North 1981, 1990). Even nowadays, economic historians still write more books than economists, either to convey the results of new research (e.g. Mokyr 1990, 2002; Pomeranz 2001; Clark 2007; Allen 2009; Rosenthal and Bin Wong 2011) or to synthetize research articles for a wider audience (Williamson 2011).

In recent decades, the number of economic history journals in the world has greatly increased, and tracing all of them would be impossible. Thus, we consider only journals that are listed at least in one of the two main citation databases, Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus, and thus arguably fit the definition of “international journal”. This choice is certainly restrictive, as it omits certain journals of long tradition, such as the previously quoted Vierteljahrschrift or the Italian Rivista di Storia Economica, established in 1936. This choice can be justified by the careful vetting that citation databases subject journals to before admitting them. In contrast, we also consider journals of business history, although many consider this as a separate sub-field (Ojala et al. 2017), and certain interdisciplinary journals with a strong interest in social and economic history.3 We have selected the two most representative measures of impact, the IF (impact factor) from WoS and SNIP (source normalized impact per paper) from Scopus. We report these measures in Table 1 for 2013–2017, alongside the position of each journal by quartile, in the SCImago ranking, for the two main subject areas (history, and economics & econometrics). The results are very neat: no other economic history or business history journal matches the selected five for any criteria. Two of the interdisciplinary ones have a comparable SNIP, but lag behind on the two other indicators. Conversely, no economic history journal can match the impact of major economic journals: in the same years, the top five economics journals (T5-E), the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies, had an average IF around 4.4 and a SNIP around 4.7, both of which are nearly four times higher than the indexes for the T5-EH.
Table 1

Impact of economic history journals in 2013–2017

Journal

Established

Included in WoS with IF since

Included in Scopus with SNIP since

IF

SNIP

SCImago quartile history

SCImago quartile economics and econometrics

EHR

1927

1997

1999

1.123

1.975

Q1

Q1

JEH

1941

1997

1999

1.109

1.643

Q1

Q1

EEH

19691

2007

1999

0.956

1.465

Q1

Q1

EREH

1997

2009

2002

0.829

1.352

Q1

Q1

CLIO

2007

2010

2008

0.884

0.960

Q1

Q2

Business History

1958

1997

1999

0.778

1.004

Q1

 

Business History Review

1926

1997

1999

0.714

1.407

Q1

 

Enterprise & Society

2000

2006

2001

0.488

1.152

Q3/Q1

 

Australian Economic History Review

1956

1997

19992

0.401

0.619

Q1/Q2

Q3/Q4

Entreprises et Histoire

1992

 

20023

 

0.360

Q2/Q3

Q3/Q4

Financial History Review

1994

 

19994

 

0.872

Q1

 

Historical Social Research

1979

2008

2007

0.246

0.566

Q2/Q1

 

International Review of Social History

1956

1997

1999

0.354

1.082

Q1

 

Investigaciones de Historia Economica

2005

 

20065

 

0.707

Q2/Q1

Q4/Q3

Journal of European Economic History

1972

 

20136

 

0.828

Q1/Q36

Q2/Q46

Journal of Global History

2006

2010

2007

0.739

1.941

Q1

 

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

1970

1997

1999

0.510

1.173

Q1

 

Journal of Management History

1995

 

2007

 

0.652

  

Management & Organizational History

2006

 

2007

 

0.628

Q1

 

Revista de Historia Economica—Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History

1983

2010

1999

0.351

0.657

Q2/Q1

Q4/Q3

Revista de Historia Industrial

1992

2011

2012

0.231

0.661

  

Scandinavian Economic History Review

1953

 

1999

 

0.857

Q2/Q1

 

Social Science History

1976

1997

1999

0.272

0.863

Q2/Q1

 

Sources For IF: Journal of Citation Reports, Clarivate Analytics (www.jcr.incites.thomsonreuters.com/) data extracted on 15 September 2018; for SNIP: CiteScore™ calculated by Scopus on 15 September 2018; for SCImago quartiles: www.scimagojr.com/data extracted on 18 September 2018

Notes1Previously titled Explorations in Entrepreneurial History (1948–1959 and 1963–mid-1969); 2gap between 2004 and 2006; 3gap between 2007 and 2008; 4gap in 2003; 5gap between 2009 and 2011; 6data only for 2013–2015

The prominent role of the T5-EH is confirmed by two other pieces of evidence. The T5-EH appear at the top in the citations’ ranking by Di Vaio and Weisdorf (2010: 11) and are placed very high in three major international rankings, the Categorization of Journals in Economics and Management by the French Comité National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS 2017), the Academic Journal Guide by the Association of Business Schools (ABS 2018) and the Academic journals in Economics by Kalaitzidakis, Mamuneas and Stengos (KMS 2011). In this latter, the JEH, EEH and EHR are in the top 100, while EREH and CLIO do not feature at all, having too short track record to be included. For the same reason, the latter two journals are in the second or third tier in the two other rankings. Other journals from Table 1 are not ranked at all or are ranked much below the top three.

The past 5 years may not be representative of long-term trends. What happened before 2013? One cannot compare trends for most journals in Table 1, including EREH and CLIO, because they have entered in the databases only in recent years.4 The impact of three other T5-EH has been growing in time according to both IF and SNIP, with substantial (but shrinking) variations from 1 year to another. These fluctuations caused the ranking of journals to change in the short term; however, in the long run, it remained fairly stable, with EHR on top, followed by JEH and EEH. The rise in impact is, to an extent, a natural consequence of the growing number of economic history journals in the WoS and Scopus databases; however, it also reflects the growing impact of T5-EH outside the field, as shown by the changes in the pattern of citations in the last 20 years.

We have extracted all citations received and done in 1997 by the EHR, JEH and EEH, and in 2017 by all the T5-EH from the Journal of Citation Report (Clarivate Analytics). This source is very detailed; however, it has some limitations. First, it lumps together in a generic category “other” all items, including articles, which cite or are cited by the economic history journals only once. This category represents over one-half of all citations done (56% in both years) and a smaller share of citations received (16% in 1997 and 22% in 2017). Second, the source includes books and documents other than journal articles (e.g. primary sources, working papers and PhD dissertations) in citations done, while it excludes them from the citations received. We address this asymmetry by excluding these items from our analysis, which thus refers to journals only. This result is unfortunate, as books remain a relevant source of ideas and information, representing for 22.2% of citations in 1997 and for 19.2% in 2017.5 These figures may underestimate the share of books, because books, especially in languages other than English, are likely to represent for a large proportion of the “other” items.

In Fig. 1, we separately plot the T5-EH and we compile all other journals into seven groups: (i) the T5-E; (ii) the top three journals in business history (T3-BH)—Business History, Business History Review and Enterprise & Society; (iii) the other economic history journals (Other EH) from Table 1; (iv) other economic journals; (v) other social science journals, which could include some economic history journals not in the Journal of Citations Report database; (vi) history journals; and (vii) other journals, a residual category that includes all other subject areas, such as chemistry or computer science and so on. The circles’ size refers to all citations received by T5-EH (red) and, for the other groups (blue), the citations received from T5-EH only. The arrows show the underlying pattern with different colours to mark flows within each group (black for flows among the T5-EH that included the self-citations, red for citations done by T5-EH towards the other seven groups, and blue for citations received by T5-EH from the seven groups).6
Fig. 1

a T3-EH citations’ network 1997. b T5-EH citations’ network 2017. Legend: circle size points out total citations received; arrow thickness points out the total number of citations between T5-EH and groups; black arrows indicate citations done and received within the T5-EH; red arrows indicate citations done by T5-EH; and blue arrows indicate citations received by T5-EH from other groups. Notes: from the total citations done and received are excluded all documents cited less than 2 times (because the source allows to identify single documents only if they have been cited at least 2 times)

Sources: elaborations on data extracted by InCites Journal of Citation Reports, Clarivate Analytics, www.jcr.incites.thomsonreuters.com/data extracted on 19 September 2018

First and foremost, the ballooning of the red circles in Fig. 1 shows the increasing popularity of economic history in the last 20 years: the T5-EH received nearly four times citations more in 2017 than in 1997 (3836 vs. 1066). Almost nine-tenths of this increase reflects the success of economic history outside the field. The T5-EH still received more citations from the traditionally neighbouring fields of economics and history; however, the increase was truly impressive in “other social science” from 83 to 469 (from 7.8% to 12.2%) and above all in “others”, which rose from 25 citations in 1997 to 332 20 years later (from 2.3% to 8.7% of the total).

Second, the data highlight the permanent strength of the network of the T5-EH (illustrated by the black arrows). In 1997, the JEH, EHR and EEH had received approximately half of their citations from themselves (502 out of 1066). 20 years later, the total number of these citations increased to 841, although they only represented one-fifth of the total. Additionally, the data highlight a substantial change from a journal-centred pattern (each journal citing itself) to a fully developed network of journals. Indeed, in 1997, self-citations within the T3-EH represented more than half of the total (277 on 502), while in 2017, this share is approximately one-third (292 on 841). Furthermore, the T5-EH have enhanced their prominent position in the field: in 2017, they received 5.5 times more citations than in 1997 from other economic history journals and nearly 2.7 times from business history journals.

Third, the relationship with other groups of journals shows a massive change towards economics. In 1997, citations done and received by the three economic history journals were almost perfectly balanced between “history” and “economics” journals (the sum of T5-E and “other economics”). These two fields represented for almost a quarter of citations done (22.7% and 23.9%, respectively) and approximately one-sixth of citations received (15.8% and 16%). In 2017, the T5-EH continued to be cited by “history” journals as much as 20 years earlier; however, they cited “history” journals much less (9.3% of total). In contrast, the share of “economics” journals increased by three quarters on both citations done (to 42.2%—i.e. 1221 times) and received by the T5-EH (to 27.2%—or 1043). Interestingly enough, in 2017, the T5-EH more frequently quoted economic journals than all economic history journals (33.6%). The distinction between T5-E and “other economics” shows an increasingly unbalanced relation. The number of citations to T5-E increased as much as the total citations to economic journals, representing approximately one-third in 1997 and 2017. In contrast, the number of citations by T5-E to articles in T5-EH increased only by a quarter (from 21 in 1997 to 33 in 2017) and their proportion of citations received collapsed, from 12.5% to 3.3% for economic journals and from 2% to 0.9% for the total.

This shift towards economics was spearheaded by the EEH. The share of its citation to all economics journals jumped from 29.4% in 1997 (less than the JEH) to almost two-thirds in 2017, with the T5-E representing for 23.9%. In that year, the EEH quoted the T5-E more frequently the T5-E than all T5-EH, including the EEH itself. In contrast, the EHR remained strongly oriented towards the journals of the field, with the share of citations to T5-EH (30.4%), above the share of all economics journals (25.6%). The same differences among T5-EH appear from citations received. In 2017, the EEH and JEH accounted for three quarters (76.5%) of all citations received by the T5-EH from economic journals. Unsurprisingly, given its age, CLIO garnered comparatively few citations from economics journals; however, they accounted for a large proportion of the total citations it received (29 of 78). The EHR exhibits a more traditional pattern: in 2017, it received three times more citations from T5-EH (212) and “history” journals (327) than from economics ones (173).

3 The database

Our database includes all articles published in the T5-EH since their establishment to the last issue of 2017, inclusive of short notes, comments, replays, rejoinders, rebuttals and essays in bibliography (Table 2).7 We prefer to include all these non-research articles, in contrast to Hamermesh (2018), for two reasons. First, in the early period, the distinction between regular articles and short research notes was not clear. Second, the movements in the yearly share of total articles reveal some relevant changes in the scholarly debate (see Sect. 4). Conversely, the database excludes book reviews, summaries and reviews of PhD theses, introductions to conferences and obituaries, that are obviously not refereed.
Table 2

Database at a glance

Journal

Covered years

No. of articles

Average articles/year

Average pages/year

EHR

91

2395

26.3

17.7

JEH

77

2491

32.4

19.8

EEH

49

1139

23.2

20.4

EREH

21

346

16.5

26.3

CLIO

11

145

13.2

25.3

Total

 

6516

71.6

19.6

Sources Elaborations on our own database

Half of all the articles in the database (3247) have been published in the last 30 years and almost four-fifths (5182) in the last 50 (Fig. 2). Before 1940, the EHR published on average 12 articles per year and its size shrank remarkably during WWII. The establishment of the JEH, which since its beginning was double the size of the pre-war EHR, marked a first major discontinuity. The total number of articles increased steadily in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the EHR, and jumped to over 100 after the establishment of the EEH in 1969. The total declined somewhat in the early 1990s and grew in recent years to 140 and beyond. In 2012, the T5-EH published a total of 159 articles, five more than the whole 1927–1940 period. The establishment of the EREH in 1997 and of CLIO in 2007 represent for slightly more than half of this increase: in 2015–2017, they jointly published, on average, 21 articles per year, while the other three journals published 18 articles more than in 1994–1996. The number of pages increased even more because the average length of the articles grew from about 15 pages until the mid-1980s to a peak close to 30 in the mid-2000s.
Fig. 2

Evolution of articles and length (average number of pages)

Sources: elaborations on our own database

The information on author(s) includes the name, the gender and the institutional affiliation at the time of publication, as stated in the article. A small number of articles (0.7%), especially in the early years, reports only a city name without institutional affiliation, possibly because authors were independent scholars. Unfortunately, a large number of articles specify only the university (or college) and thus we cannot keep the distinction between departments of economics and history, which would have been informative (Poelmans and Rousseau 2016).

We have classified the articles by four main features (topic, historical period, area and method) by looking at the title, abstract and, in some controversial cases, the text directly:
  1. (i)
    The classification by topic is the most problematic, as any list is, to some extent, arbitrary, and many articles address more than one issue. We have defined 17 topics, aggregated in five categories, attempting to achieve the maximum level of detail without being forced to arbitrarily allocate articles on broad issues (for a full description, see Table 3).8
    Table 3

    Classification and share of articles’ topics by period

    Category/topic

    Description

    1927–1940

    1941–1960

    1961–1996

    1997–2017

    Methodology

    16.2

    13.0

    3.9

    1.2

    EH

    Economic history as discipline

    14.9

    6.6

    2.7

    0.9

    HET

    History of economic thought

    1.3

    6.4

    1.2

    0.2

    Institutions

    15.6

    9.2

    8.6

    13.3

    Institutions

    Institutions, regulation, role of culture and religion, empires and imperial expansion. Electoral issues and general politics, war

    15.6

    9.2

    8.6

    13.3

    Macro-approach

    21.4

    23.1

    25.7

    22.3

    Growth

    Growth, national accounts and economic fluctuations. General economic history (also industrialization process) of a specific geographical area (continent, country and region)

    9.1

    11.3

    12.7

    10.5

    Macroeconomic and monetary policies

    Monetary and fiscal policy, central banking

    1.3

    4.0

    6.4

    5.6

    Trade

    Trade and trade policies. Market integration (commodities)

    11.0

    7.8

    6.6

    6.2

    Micro-approach

    33.8

    43.8

    37.2

    33.2

    Agriculture

    Agriculture (including forestry and fishing), land policy, natural resources, energy and environmental history

    11.7

    10.3

    10.9

    5.7

    Finance

    Banking and financial systems, private investment and capital markets (domestic and international, including integration) and credit regulation

    6.5

    7.4

    8.3

    12.4

    Firm

    Business history on specific companies in industry and banking, entrepreneurship

    5.2

    8.3

    2.3

    1.8

    Industry

    Manufacturing, mining and construction. Industrial policy

    7.1

    11.4

    9.4

    6.3

    Innovation

    Innovation and technology

    1.9

    1.6

    3.0

    3.8

    Services

    Insurance, transportation (roads, railways and canals) including construction. Retailing

    1.3

    4.8

    3.2

    3.1

    Personal conditions and behaviour

    13.0

    10.8

    24.5

    30.0

    Human capital

    Human capital and education

    0.1

    1.5

    3.1

    Income distribution

    Inequality and wealth distribution

    0.6

    0.4

    1.6

    3.1

    Labour

    Labour force (including gender issue), slavery (including trade), industrial relations and trade unions, welfare state (including pensions)

    5.2

    6.0

    10.1

    6.7

    Population and demography

    Demographic behaviour (birth, marriage and mortality), famines and their demographic effects, migrations, urbanization and city growth

    2.6

    1.7

    4.4

    4.6

    Standard of living

    Wages, consumption, biological standard of living (heights, wellness and health)

    4.5

    2.6

    6.9

    12.6

    Total

    100.0

    100.0

    100.0

    100.0

    Number of articles

    154

    769

    3173

    2420

    Sources Our own database

    Table 4

    Multinomial logit estimates: topics

    Variables

    Methodology

    Institutions

    Macro-approach

    Micro-approach

    Personal conditions and behaviour

    CLIO

    2.163***

     

    1.676***

    0.603

    1.264***

    (0.667)

     

    (0.454)

    (0.462)

    (0.450)

    EREH

    − 0.545

     

    0.953***

    0.219

    0.158

    (0.803)

     

    (0.246)

    (0.241)

    (0.247)

    EEH

    0.247

     

    0.569**

    0.481**

    0.849***

    (0.370)

     

    (0.222)

    (0.218)

    (0.222)

    JEH

    0.542***

     

    − 0.264**

    − 0.0126

    − 0.146

    (0.186)

     

    (0.133)

    (0.126)

    (0.138)

    1927–1940

    1.157***

     

    − 0.803***

    − 0.625**

    − 1.146***

    (0.331)

     

    (0.288)

    (0.267)

    (0.321)

    1941–1960

    1.144***

     

    − 0.0753

    0.165

    − 0.735***

    (0.193)

     

    (0.159)

    (0.149)

    (0.179)

    1997–2017

    − 1.047***

     

    − 0.697***

    − 0.327**

    − 0.0684

    (0.373)

     

    (0.173)

    (0.160)

    (0.167)

    Period (1997–2017) × EEH

    − 2.465**

     

    − 0.621**

    − 0.884***

    − 0.928***

    (1.123)

     

    (0.299)

    (0.286)

    (0.289)

    EEH + [Period (1997–2017) × EEH]

    − 2.218**

     

    − 0.052

    − 0.403**

    − 0.079

    (1.060)

     

    (0.200)

    (0.185)

    (0.185)

    Period (1997–2017) × JEH

    − 0.969*

     

    − 0.144

    − 0.317

    − 0.264

    (0.515)

     

    (0.231)

    (0.209)

    (0.221)

    JEH + [Period (1997–2017) × JEH]

    − 0.427

     

    − 0.408**

    − 0.329**

    − 0.410**

    (0.481)

     

    (0.188)

    (0.166)

    (0.172)

    Constant

    − 1.116***

     

    1.121***

    1.399***

    0.964***

    (0.166)

     

    (0.105)

    (0.101)

    (0.108)

    Observations

    6516

    6516

    6516

    6516

    6516

    Note Standard errors in parentheses, ***p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05, * p < 0.1. Journal base category (omitted): EHR. Period base category (omitted): 1961–1996

    Sources Elaborations on our own database

    Table 5

    Multinomial logit estimates: historical periods

    Variables

    Classical history (before 476)

    Medieval history (476–1492)

    Early modern history (1500–1815)

    Modern history (1815–present)

    Long-run view

    CLIO

    − 14.76

    − 2.029*

     

    0.638**

    0.0825

    (2131)

    (1.036)

     

    (0.258)

    (0.362)

    EREH

    0.0767

    − 0.734**

     

    0.293*

    − 0.982***

    (0.878)

    (0.351)

     

    (0.167)

    (0.300)

    EEH

    1.457**

    − 0.128

     

    1.333***

    0.553***

    (0.594)

    (0.254)

     

    (0.146)

    (0.210)

    JEH

    0.179

    − 0.899***

     

    0.991***

    0.144

    (0.428)

    (0.170)

     

    (0.0887)

    (0.135)

    1927–1940

    − 16.00

    0.540**

     

    − 0.563***

    − 0.807**

    (3131)

    (0.234)

     

    (0.205)

    (0.358)

    1941–1960

    1.157***

    0.158

     

    − 0.706***

    − 0.243

    (0.428)

    (0.156)

     

    (0.103)

    (0.153)

    1997–2017

    0.449

    − 0.142

     

    0.399***

    0.442***

    (0.628)

    (0.187)

     

    (0.117)

    (0.162)

    Period (1997–2017) × EEH

    − 0.101

    − 0.163

     

    − 0.0980

    − 0.422

    (0.911)

    (0.433)

     

    (0.232)

    (0.331)

    EEH + [Period (1997–2017) × EEH]

    1.356**

    0.291

     

    1.235***

    0.131

    (0.691)

    (0.351)

     

    (0.180)

    (0.256)

    Period (1997–2017) × JEH

    − 14.98

    0.104

     

    − 0.437***

    − 0.298

    (952.5)

    (0.345)

     

    (0.168)

    (0.246)

    JEH + [Period (1997–2017) × JEH]

    − 14.801

     0.795***

     

    0.554***

    − 0.154

    (952.5)

    (0.300)

     

    (0.143)

    (0.205)

    Constant

    − 4.067***

    − 0.873***

     

    0.563***

    − 0.861***

    (0.372)

    (0.0983)

     

    (0.0657)

    (0.0964)

    Observations

    6437

    6437

    6437

    6437

    6437

    Note Standard errors in parentheses, ***p < 0.01, **p < 0.05, *p < 0.1. Journal base category (omitted): EHR. Period base category (omitted): 1961–1996

    Sources Elaborations on our own database

    Table 6

    Logit estimates: use of econometrics and advanced econometrics techniques

    Variables

    Dependent variable

    Econometric tools

    Advanced econometrics

    CLIO

    2.000***

    0.165

    (0.289)

    (0.371)

    EREH

    − 0.462**

    2.362***

    (0.195)

    (0.824)

    EEH

    1.401***

    1.888**

    (0.101)

    (0.750)

    JEH

    − 0.0752

    2.015***

    (0.0864)

    (0.743)

    1997–2006

    1.399***

    1.465***

    (0.0891)

    (0.349)

    2007–2017

    1.156***

    3.596***

    (0.117)

    (0.779)

    Period (2007–2017) × EREH

    1.813***

    − 1.818**

    (0.281)

    (0.883)

    EREH + [Period (2007–2017) × EREH]

    1.350***

    0.543*

    (0.203)

    (0.317)

    Period (2007–2017) × EEH

    0.182

    − 1.153

    (0.208)

    (0.800)

    EEH + [Period (2007–2017) × EEH]

    1.583***

    0.736***

    (0.181)

    (0.279)

    Period (2007–2017) × JEH

    1.071***

    − 1.505*

    (0.178)

    (0.797)

    JEH + [Period (2007–2017) × JEH]

    0.995***

    0.510*

    (0.156)

    (0.289)

    Constant

    − 0.996***

    − 5.958***

    (0.0686)

    (0.745)

    Observations

    5121

    2596

    Note Standard errors in parentheses, ***p < 0.01, **p < 0.05, * p < 0.1. Journal base category (omitted): EHR. Period base category (omitted): 1969–1996

    Sources Elaborations on our own database

    Table 7

    Co-authorship: number of authors per article by period

    No. of authors per article

    1927–1940

    1941–1960

    1961–1996

    1997–2017

    Total

    1

    94.2

    96.4

    82.9

    54.5

    74.2

    2

    5.8

    3.3

    15.4

    33.1

    20.3

    3

    0.4

    1.7

    10.5

    4.8

    4

    1.7

    0.6

    5

    0.1

    0.0

    Total

    100

    100

    100

    100

    100

    Sources Elaborations on our own database

    Table 8

    Share of nationality of the contributions’ authors affiliations by period

     

    1927–1940

    1941–1960

    1961–1996

    1997–2017

    Total

    USA

    20.0

    50.5

    56.5

    33.9

    46.6

    UK

    64.2

    40.7

    28.4

    25.2

    29.3

    Canada

    2.7

    5.7

    4.9

    4.9

    Australia

    0.8

    3.1

    1.6

    2.2

    Ireland

    0.3

    0.5

    0.9

    0.6

    New Zealand

    0.3

    0.6

    0.4

    0.5

    Germany

    1.7

    0.9

    0.5

    4.7

    2.2

    Spain

    0.2

    5.1

    2.0

    Italy

    0.5

    0.4

    3.5

    1.5

    Netherlands

    0.3

    0.3

    3.4

    1.4

    France

    5.0

    1.2

    0.6

    2.4

    1.4

    Sweden

    1.7

    0.3

    0.1

    2.9

    1.2

    Japan

    0.7

    1.1

    0.7

    Other european countries

    6.7

    0.8

    1.0

    5.9

    2.9

    All others

    0.8

    0.9

    1.4

    4.1

    2.4

    Total

    100.0

    100.0

    100.0

    100.0

    100.0

    Table 9

    Share of nationality of the contributions’ authors affiliations per million inhabitants by period

     

    1927–1940

    1941–1960

    1961–1996

    1997–2017

    UK

    1.6

    5.9

    15.4

    9.2

    Sweden

    0.3

    0.3

    0.3

    7.0

    Denmark

    0.6

    5.7

    Netherlands

    0.2

    0.6

    4.9

    Ireland

    0.7

    4.3

    4.4

    Belgium

    0.4

    0.2

    0.9

    3.7

    Canada

    1.1

    6.0

    3.2

    Iceland

     

    3.0

    Switzerland

    0.2

    1.0

    2.6

    Spain

    0.1

    2.6

    USA

    0.2

    2.1

    6.6

    2.5

    Israel

     

    1.4

    3.7

    2.2

    Norway

    0.5

    2.0

    New Zealand

    0.8

    5.0

    1.9

    Finland

    1.7

    Australia

    0.6

    5.5

    1.6

    Italy

    0.1

    0.2

    1.4

    Germany

    0.0

    0.1

    0.2

    1.4

    France

    0.1

    0.2

    0.3

    0.9

    Portugal

    0.8

    Sources Elaborations on our own database; for population: Maddison Project Database, version 2018 (Bolt et al. 2018)

    Table 10

    Top 10 institutional affiliations by number of contributions

    #

    1927–1940

    1941–1960

    1961–1996

    1997–2017

    1927–2017

    Institution

    %

    Institution

    %

    Institution

    %

    Institution

    %

    Institution

    %

    1

    University of Oxford

    16.8

    University of Cambridge

    8.2

    University of Cambridge

    3.2

    London School of Economics and Political Science

    3.1

    University of Cambridge

    3.7

    2

    London School of Economics and Political Science

    11.8

    London School of Economics and Political Science

    5.1

    University of Oxford

    2.7

    University of Oxford

    3.0

    University of Oxford

    3.3

    3

    University of Cambridge

    6.3

    University of Oxford

    5.0

    Harvard University

    2.5

    University of Cambridge

    2.8

    London School of Economics and Political Science

    2.9

    4

    University College London

    5.0

    Harvard University

    4.8

    London School of Economics and Political Science

    1.8

    Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

    1.9

    Harvard University

    2.5

    5

    Moscow State University

    4.2

    Columbia University

    3.0

    University of London

    1.6

    University of Warwick

    1.8

    University of London

    1.3

    6

    University of Manchester

    4.2

    University of Chicago

    2.8

    University of Washington

    1.5

    Harvard University

    1.7

    Yale University

    1.2

    7

    Harvard University

    3.4

    University of Manchester

    2.6

    Yale University

    1.5

    Utrecht University

    1.7

    University of Warwick

    1.1

    8

    Université de Rennes

    3.4

    University College London

    2.0

    University of Wisconsin

    1.4

    University of California Davis

    1.3

    University of Manchester

    1.1

    9

    University of Chicago

    3.4

    University of Pennsylvania

    1.8

    University of California Berkeley

    1.4

    Lund University

    1.1

    University of California Berkeley

    1.1

    10

    Ghent University

    2.5

    Johns Hopkins University

    1.8

    University of Edinburgh

    1.3

    University of Reading

    1.1

    University of Chicago

    1.1

     

    C10

    60.9

     

    37.2

     

    19.0

     

    19.5

     

    19.3

     

    C25

    84.9

     

    57.6

     

    34.4

     

    31.6

     

    32.2

     

    HHI (× 100)

    6.2

     

    2.2

     

    0.8

     

    0.7

      
     

    HHI UK

    (× 100)

    12.7

     

    8.7

     

    4.1

     

    5.8

      
     

    HHI USA

    (× 100)

    10.4

     

    2.8

     

    1.2

     

    1.3

      

    Sources Elaborations on our own database

     
  2. (ii)

    We have followed the standard division by historical period in “Classical history” (before 476), “Medieval history” (476–1492), “Early modern history” (1492–1815) and “Modern history” (1815–present). We have labelled as “long run” articles straddling two periods, even for relatively few years (e.g. from 1750 to 1870) and as “no period” articles on methodology. Given the large number of articles on the “Modern history” period, we have further distinguished four sub-periods (1815–1870, 1871–1913, 1914–1945 and after 1945), five extended periods (1815–1913, 1870–1945, 1914–present, 1915–1945 and 1870–present) and a residual category that includes paper dealing with all the periods from 1815 to present (“all modern”).

     
  3. (iii)

    We have classified articles by area in five different categories, plus a residual (“no area”) one for articles on methodology. We have distinguished articles as referring to a single country, two or more countries in the same continent (e.g. France and the UK), two or more countries in different continents (e.g. the USA and Japan), a whole continent without indication of countries and the whole world.

     
  4. (iv)

    We have defined three levels of quantitative analysis as using simple descriptive tools (tables, figures and graphs), “basic econometrics” (correlations, OLS regressions and so on) and “advanced econometrics” (differences in differences, instrumental variables, panel regression, propensity score matching, vector autoregression or VAR, and vector error correction model or VECM). We have classified articles in these groups with a visual inspection, supplemented, for “advanced econometrics”, by a search of words related to these techniques, employing the advanced search tool of Google Scholar (Margo 2018).9

     

4 The evolution of economic history: articles

The changes in the sample of journals and in the number of articles (Fig. 2) have relevant implications for the interpretation of our results. First, by definition, before 1940, our analysis is limited to the EHR, which mainly published works by British scholars on the economic history of the UK (Sect. 5). Second, the combined effect of their earlier establishment and their larger size implies that JEH and EHR dominate the database, representing for three quarters of all articles (Table 2). Third, the overall growth in the number of articles increases the number of pages corresponding to any given share of the total: a 1% share corresponds to 0.1 articles per year before 1940, to 0.4 in the 1940s and 1950s, to around 1 from early 1960s to mid-2000s and finally, to 1.5 articles after 2007. Last but not least, the hump of the 1970s and 1980s in the number of articles per year is determined by a sharp increase in the share of articles less than four pages long. These articles represented 5.7% of the total from 1968 to 1984, with a peak of 11.2% in 1977, but only 0.2% in 1997–2017. Arguably, the increase is a consequence of the Cliometric Revolution, which stimulated the discussion on methods and results. These exchanges have largely disappeared in more recent years, because currently the research work is subject to much more intense scrutiny in seminars and conferences and are very often published as working papers before submission, reducing the scope for ex post comments.

In the following, we consider the growing journal coverage as well as the broad methodological changes by dividing the 90 years into four periods: the “British period” (1927–1940), “the traditional economic history” (1941–1960), “the age of the Cliometric Revolution” (1961–1996) and “the rise of the new European journals”, which broadly coincides with the “integration of economic history into economics” (1997–2017).

4.1 Topics

Over the whole period, the distribution of articles by topic changed substantially, as Table 3 (and Figure A1 in the Online Appendix) shows.10 Of five general categories, only two remained broadly constant, the “Macro-approach” and, with the exception of a spike in 1941–1960, the “Micro-approach”. The share of articles on “Methodology” declined steadily; the share of “Personal conditions and behaviour” increased sharply after the Cliometric Revolution; and the share of “Institutions” first declined and then rebounded.

Most of these movements are the outcome of complex changes within each category. There are substantial changes even for the category “Institutions”, which coincides with one of the seventeen topics. The early works, when focusing on institutions, described organizations such as the Islamic guilds (Lewis 1937); the more recent ones, such as the article by North and Weingast (1989) on property rights and debt management after the Glorious Revolution, the most cited article in the whole database, deal with institutions as rules of the game (for the full list of most cited articles, see Table A1 in Online Appendix). The “EH” articles in the “British period” informed readers of the EHR about teaching of economic history, on economic history in other countries and similar topics. This type of articles disappeared rather early, and the topic reappeared only sporadically in the 1970s for the methodological controversies during the Cliometric Revolution, and very recently, with the debates on the integration of economic history into economics. In the 1940s and 1950s, the category “Methodology” mostly featured articles in “History of Economic Thought” (HET), many of them from the newly established JEH. The interest in the topic declined sharply from the late 1960s onwards, with the combined effect of the Cliometric Revolution and the availability of alternative opportunities of publication in specialized journals, most notably the History of Political Economy (established in 1969). A similar pattern explains the changes in the “Micro-approach”: in the 1940s and 1950s, the articles in this category consisted mostly of descriptions of the features and the evolution of areas or of specific companies (“Firms”). After the Cliometric Revolution, these articles disappeared from the T5-EH, and business history developed as a separate field, with its own journals (such as Business History since 1958 and Enterprise and Society since 2000). In recent years, most articles of the “Micro-approach” deal with “Innovation” and “Finance”, which include articles on patents data and capital markets. A major change occurred in the category “Personal conditions and behaviour”. This category’s early rise largely reflects the debates on slavery after the publication of the seminal book by Fogel and Engerman Time on a cross (1974): indeed, from 1975 to 1996, “Labour” was the third most important topic, representing 11.6% of the total. In more recent years, the category primarily includes articles on “Income distribution” (4.4% of all articles in 2013–2017), “Human capital” (5.4%) and, above all, “Standard of living” (12.5%).

These changes are broadly common to all journals; however, there are significant differences which reflect the nature of national scientific communities. It would be cumbersome to describe these journal-specific patterns, and thus, we explore them by running a set of multinomial logit estimates (Hamermesh 2013). The dependent variable is the number of articles in each category, using “Institutions” as the base outcome. We explain changes by dummies for each journal (EHR omitted variable) and publication period (1961–1996 omitted variable), with interaction terms for JEH and EEH in 1997–2017.

Table 4 shows substantial differences between the EHR and the other journals, even controlling for the evolution in time. Over the whole period, the differences are stark with EEH and CLIO (three significant coefficients out of four), remaining large with the JEH and smaller for the EREH (only one significant coefficient, for the “Macro-approach”). We report in Roman the coefficients for interactions and in Italic the cumulated effect (the sum of this latter and of the whole-period coefficient). The latter measures the relevance of all other subjects in 1997–2017 and thus is comparable to the coefficients for CLIO and EREH, which refer to the same years. A negative coefficient implies that the journal published fewer articles in that specific category than in “Institutions” relative to the EHR.11 The results show that the shift towards “Institutions” was an American trend. Indeed, all cumulated coefficients for JEH and EEH are negative, and most of them are significant as well, while the coefficients for EREH and CLIO are positive.

4.2 Historical periods

The distribution of paper by historical period (Fig. 3) shows a massive shift towards “Modern history” after the establishment of the JEH.
Fig. 3

Share of historical periods (5-year moving average)

Sources: elaborations on our own database

Before 1940, the EHR had published as many articles on “Early modern” and almost as many on “Medieval history” as on “Modern history”, and its distribution changed little in 1941–1960. In contrast, the JEH published 214 articles on “Modern history”, three times more than “Medieval history” and “Early modern history” combined. This strong focus is barely surprising, given the prevalence of Americans among the authors of the JEH. The Cliometric Revolution further shifted the distribution of articles towards modern issues. The total number of articles in “Medieval history” collapsed quickly in the 1960s, but afterwards, it has remained low but constant around four per year, with a correspondingly low but stable share. In contrast, the decline in the share of “Early modern” issues has been more gradual, and the total number of articles has even increased, from 12 articles per year on average in the 1940s and 1950s (one-third of the total) to about 20 (one-sixth) after 1997. Recent years witness a modest revival of “Early modern history”: its share on total has risen somewhat in all journals, and it has tripled in the EREH, up to 27%. The shares of articles on “long run” and “Classical history” have remained broadly constant, around one-tenth and below 1%, respectively. The coverage of the “Modern” period is rather unbalanced. Over 2000 articles (i.e. one-third of the total in the database excluding the “no period” ones) deal with the “long nineteenth century”, from Waterloo to WWI. The interwar years have garnered significantly more attention than the post-1945 period. The low share of articles on this latter (4.4% of the whole database) cannot be explained only by the lack of historical depth. Articles on post-WWII represent 6.5% of all articles published in 2013–2017 (20% adding those also dealing with the interwar period).

The multinomial logit regression (Table 5), with “Early modern” as the base outcome, confirms the difference between journals, controlling for the evolution in time. Throughout the whole period, all journals published significantly more articles on “Modern history” than the EHR and fewer articles on “Medieval history” (although the difference for EEH is not significant), while the results are mixed for “Classical history” (note the high coefficient for EEH) and long run (again, a remarkably high coefficient for EEH).

The cumulated effect for the last period (in Italic) shows that, despite the recent increase in the share of “Modern” articles in the EHR (up to 56% in 1997–2017), the difference with the JEH and EEH has deepened. The revival of “Early modern” has been thus far too weak to affect the results of the regression.

4.3 Geography

Unsurprisingly, economic history was a local field in the early period and, somewhat more surprisingly, it has largely remained such (Fig. 4). All comparative articles (i.e. papers dealing with more than one polity) represent slightly more than one-sixth of the total. The share fluctuated significantly, especially in the early years, but there is no a clear upward trend. The aggregate share for T5-EH is still stuck around one-fifth in 2013–2017, although it is slightly higher in the two newcomer journals, CLIO and EREH. The editorial statement for this latter quotes comparison within Europe as a key interest area of the journal (Hatton et al. 1997); yet, comparative papers represented less than one-third on average in the whole history of the journal. Moreover, our definition of “comparative” article is arguably rather generous, as it includes any paper dealing with two polities in the same continent. Articles addressing polities in different continents (or “intercontinental”) represented approximately one-quarter of the comparative ones (i.e. for about 3% of the total) until 1960 and rose after the Cliometric Revolution to a maximum of about one-half in the 1990s (about 10% of the total) and then declined again. Despite the hype on globalization, since 2007, the T5-EH have published 115 “intercontinental” articles. The figure may appear impressive, but it corresponds to 8.5% of the total. In addition, only a minority of these articles would continue to be classified as intercontinental if we included in the category only articles dealing with all the world, or with representative samples of polities in several continents.
Fig. 4

Share of comparative articles on total and of intercontinental articles on comparative ones

Sources: elaborations on our own database

A look at single-country articles shows a home bias throughout the period: economic historians have worked and continue to work mostly on their own country and published mainly in national (or area-specific) journals. Thus, the shares of papers by area closely reflected the distribution of articles by journal (Fig. 5) and, ultimately, the distribution of authors by country, which we will discuss in Sect. 5.12
Fig. 5

Share of articles by continents (5-year moving average)

Sources: elaborations on our own database

Before 1940, the UK accounted for about 70% of the articles in the EHR and Continental Europe, including 17 comparative papers with the UK representing nearly all the rest. The start of publications of the JEH and later of the EEH boosted the share of North America, from 1.3% (2 articles) before 1940 to 25.3% in 1941–1960 and 34.2% in 1961–1996. These latter figures were not as high as one would expect because American journals were less home-biased than the EHR: only one-half of 50% of their articles dealt with North America. The distribution of articles by area has changed since the mid-1990s, when the share of articles on Continental Europe doubled.13 As expected, these articles represented for most articles in the EREH (72.5%) and CLIO (52.4%) but also for a relevant percentage of articles in the Anglo-Saxon journals approximately 25% of the articles in the JEH and about 30% in the EHR and EEH. Remarkably, in 2016–2017, the EHR published more articles on Continental Europe than on the UK.

The share of articles on the rest of the world (“others”) remained remarkably stable, approximately 10%, until the end of the century, and increased slightly only in recent years (Fig. 5). The share of articles on Oceania always remained below 1%, and the share on Asia fluctuated widely since the beginning, around 5%, with peaks around or over 10%, but also with years without a single article. The limited increase in recent years reflects the “renaissance” of African economic history (Austin and Broadberry 2014). Almost half of all articles on Africa in the whole database (44 out of 104) have been published since 2007, representing 3.2% of the total, versus 1.3% until 2006.

4.4 Methods

The defining characteristic of the Cliometric Revolution is the use of neoclassical economic theory to put forward hypotheses to test. Identifying rigorous economic reasoning would need sophisticated text analysis, which is beyond the scope of this article, and thus we will focus on testing. This finding did not necessarily rely on econometrics. Conversely, tables and figures were not an exclusive feature of cliometric articles: the so-called histoire sérielle was a major current of the Annales school in the 1960s (Chaunu 1970). However, as pointed out by Wrigley (1999), tables and graphs can be considered a harbinger of the methodological change. Indeed, before 1950, only a quarter of articles had at least one table, and almost none had a figure. As Fig. 6 shows, the proportion of articles with tables has been rising steadily, to over 90% in the 2000s.
Fig. 6

Presence (%) of tables, figures and econometrics on total articles

Sources: elaborations on our own database

Figures may be considered more representative of the Cliometric Revolution, as they also include the graphical illustration of economic models. However, the number of figures has risen much more slowly, possibly because drawing suitable figures was technically challenging before the age of the personal computer. As late as the 1980s, only about one-quarter of the articles had any figure, and even in most recent years, one-quarter has no visual help.

The use of econometrics predated the Cliometric Revolution: the first regression appeared, in 1950, in the JEH in an article by Fabricant (1950) and in the EHR 11 years later (Cousens 1961). However, these early regressions were used as an illustrative device instead of hypotheses testing and the results are literally “hidden” in the text instead of reported in tables. The first regression table with coefficients was published in the JEH in 1958 (Landes 1958), and the first “modern” combination of an equation to be tested and of a table with results appeared 3 years later in the same journal (Fishlow 1961). The number of articles with econometrics remained very low in the 1960s (a total of 22 articles in 1961–1969, less than 4% of the total) and jumped in the early 1970s to approximately a quarter. The articles’ share fluctuated between a quarter and one-third until the 1990s and then rose further, to about three quarters.14

Economic historians do not use advanced econometric techniques, as defined in Sect. 3, as often as economists. The first article with instrumental variables appeared very early, in 1973 (Newell 1973), while the first panel regression only appeared at the turn of the century (Rosenbloom and Sundstrom 1999). However, these pioneers found few imitators: the number of articles with advanced econometrics remained negligible until the late 1990s, and then remain a minority. The peak was achieved in 2014 with 21 of the sub-sample of 103 articles with some econometrics and of 131 articles overall. The still limited resort to advanced techniques likely reflects the lack of suitable data: it is unlikely that scholars trained in modern economics are unaware of the potential of VECM or panel regression for the historical analysis.

We analyse the diffusion of econometrics in the T5-EH separately for econometric tools and advanced econometrics, for the period since 1969 (Table 6).15 As before, the base outcome is EHR, but the base period is 1969–1996. We split subsequent years into two periods (1997–2006 and 2007–2017); therefore, it is possible to also add an interaction for EREH. Almost all journal coefficients are positive and highly significant—i.e. all journals used more econometrics than the EHR. The gap seems particularly large with the EEH, which has been constantly on the forefront of the use of econometrics, both basic and advanced. In its earlier period (1997–2006), the EREH published significantly fewer papers with basic econometrics than the EHR and then it zoomed ahead after 2007. Similarly, the JEH published as many econometric papers as the EHR before 2006 and sharply increased the use in recent years. Both journals published more advanced econometric papers than the EHR throughout the period; however, the numbers are rather small until quite recently. These results suggest that there has been a convergence towards the “hard Clio” model of EEH and CLIO. The process is almost complete for the JEH and EREH, while the EHR continues to lag behind. Indeed, as late as 2013–2017, only 55% of articles in the EHR use any econometrics and only 7% use advanced techniques (vs. 87% and 11% for the EEH).

5 The evolution of economic history: authors

The 6516 articles have a total of 8597 authors, but many of them authored more than one paper, such that the database lists a total of 3884 individuals.16 We estimate the number of still active scholars by assuming that each listed individual published her first article at 30 years of age and her last at 72 (after having retired at 70). These assumptions yield a total of 2889 individuals, which can be considered an upper bound of the total.17 However, it covers a quarter of the 10,700 economic historians in the world who were active in 2010 according to Baten and Muschallik (2012).

First and foremost, economic history has always been and remains a male-dominated field (Fig. 7). Women represent 12.2% of all authors (1045 out of 8597) and for 14.8% of individuals (574 out of 3884). Interestingly, women were very well represented in the “British period”. From 1927 to 1947, 30 different women authored 39 articles (out of 359 in total), with all-time peaks of 3 out of 10 articles in 1930 and 4 out of 13 in 1932. After 1948, the share of female authors decreased dramatically: from that year to 1960, they published only 25 of 604 articles (4.1%) and only 7 of 275 in the JEH (2.5%). The situation did not change much in the early years of the Cliometric Revolution: females represented 5.1% of total authors in 1961–1978, and their share was more than double in the traditional EHR (6.8%) than in the hard-line cliometric EEH (3.0%). The share rose to almost one-fifth in 1994–1996, and then it has fluctuated between 10% and 20% without a clear trend thereafter. In the last 5 years, the share of women has been on the low side (14.9%), exceeding one-fifth only in the women-friendly EHR. However, the dots in Fig. 7 show that economic history is slightly less gender-biased than economics. This difference and the comparatively high proportion of women in the early years might be related to the connection to a traditionally female-friendly discipline as history.
Fig. 7

Shares of women on total authors by year

Sources: elaborations on our own database; for Top Economics Journals: Hamermesh (2013, Table 1)

Second, economic history had been a solitary pursuit at least until the 1970s. Before 1970, co-authored papers were quite exceptional, approximately one of twenty (Fig. 8, solid and red line). Their share increased to one-sixth in the 1970s and 1980s, to one-third in the 1990s, eventually exceeding one-half of the articles since 2010. Most of these articles have been written by two authors (Table 7).
Fig. 8

Shares of co-authored articles and of international co-authors (different countries) by year

Sources: elaborations on our own database

The first article with three authors was published in 1953 in EHR (Hyde, Parkinson and Marriner 1953), and the first with four ones was published in the JEH only in the early 2000s (Hoffman et al. 2002), when articles with more than three authors exceeded one-tenth of the total for the first time. There are only three articles with five authors in the whole database, two in 2011 and one in 2013. Furthermore, until the late 1970s, only one-sixth of co-authored articles (and thus less than 2% of all articles) were written by individuals affiliated to universities in different countries (Fig. 8, dotted line). The share of these transnational collaborations rose slowly but steadily, up to one-sixth of all articles after 1997. The number of cross-gender collaborations has increased from only 8 articles (out of 64 written by at least one woman) in the first two periods, to 288 in 1997–2017 (over one-half). In the last 3 years, these cross-gender collaborations represented two-thirds of all articles authored by women and for 18% of all articles.

This growth of co-authorship reproduces, with a substantial lag, the evolution in economics (Hamermesh 2013: Table 2).18 Not by chance, the process, although common to all the T5-EH, is more advanced in the EEH than in other economic history journals: in the last 5 years, co-authored accounted for two-thirds of all its articles (and international collaborations for a quarter), while for less than one-half (one-fifth) in the EHR. The rise of multi-authored papers in economics has been explained by increasing efficiency in the division of labour among authors and by the dramatic reduction in communication and travel costs (Kuld and O’Hagan 2018). This trend has also pulled economic historians working in economics departments, who have been requested to publish more intensively without penalties for co-authorship (Seltzer and Hamermesh 2018).

We measure the influence of each country with the number of authors affiliated to its institutions at the time of the publication of the article. We do not consider the nationality of the author, nor her affiliation before or after the publication of the article. To avoid distortions from the rise in co-authorship, we use fractional counting. We assign to each author (and thus to her institution and, ultimately, to the country) the inverse of the number of authors of the article (0.5 if there are two authors, 0.33 if there are three and so on). We distinguish fractionally weighted articles from unweighted ones by using the word “contribution” instead of “article”.

The database lists 870 institutions of higher education (universities and colleges) and 201 other affiliations, from New York Citibank to Dorset History Centre, for a total of 1071 institutions from 55 countries.19 However, some universities produced most of the output in economic history: sixteen of them represented a quarter of all contributions from 1927 onwards, 61 for one-half and 178 three quarters. Until 1990, almost all these institutions (95.1%) were located in Anglo-Saxon countries (Table 8 and Figure A2 in the Online Appendix). The USA represented over one-half (54.9%) of contributions; the UK represented one-third (32.4%); Canada one-twentieth (4.7%); and Ireland, after 1921, Australia and New Zealand the rest. The whole of Continental Europe produced less contributions than Canada (108 vs. 159), and no other country exceeded 1% of total contributions (the most productive one being France with 25 articles or 0.7%). The total share of each country depends of course on its size: adjusting for population, the ranking is different with the UK at the top (7 contributions per million inhabitants in 1927–1989), followed by the USA (3.5), Canada and Israel (Table 9).20 This dominance of Anglo-Saxon authors largely reflects our selection of journals, given the home bias in the choice of the outlet for publication. British authors accounted for 70.7% of the articles of the EHR, and Americans for 77.9% of the EEH and 84.3% of the JEH. Continental Europeans seldom published in Anglo-Saxon journals because they had their own journals. Furthermore, it is also likely that authors from non-Anglo-Saxon universities had links to the Anglo-Saxon world, via their nationality and/or PhD.

The situation changed rather suddenly around 1990. The share of Continental Europeans began to rise in the early years of the decade, jumping to about one-sixth of all contributions after 1997, and continued to grow to 38.3% in the last 5 years. Correspondingly, the share of contributions from Anglo-Saxon authors declined to 54.3%. The jump after 1997 coincides in time with the establishment of the EREH and later of CLIO; however, the availability of two European journals does not fully explain the success of European authors. On the one hand, these journals did not dominate the European journals as the American and the British had done before 1990 with their home journals. Continental Europeans represented 59.3% of all articles in the EREH and for 55.2% of articles on CLIO. On the other hand, Continental Europeans succeeded in publishing increasingly more contributions in the Anglo-Saxons journals. In 2013–2017, these Continental Europeans contributed a quarter of the total articles published in JEH and EEH and one-third in the EHR. Actually, Continental Europeans published more in the EHR than in the EREH (28.6% of contributions vs. 26.8%) and the two American journals have published as many contributions, about 15%, from Europeans as CLIO. As a result, the population-adjusted ranking for 1997–2017 features six Continental European countries, plus Iceland, in the top ten positions. The gap further widened in the last period: in 2013–2017 the top performer, Sweden, has about 50% more contributions per capita than the second, the UK, and six times more than the USA. Furthermore, the rise of Continental Europeans was not helped neither by a shift in topics nor by a reduction in their home bias since few articles by Europeans addressed English or American economic history (Sect. 4).

In contrast, little changed since 1997 in the contributions of scholars from non-European and non-Anglo-Saxon countries. These contributions accounted for 4.6% of the total in the whole 1990–2017 period and for 7.4% in 2013–2017. Japan maintained its position, Israel slipped somewhat relative to its ranking before 1990, and the four Asiatic tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) entered in the ranking. The contribution of less developed countries, including large countries such as India and China, remained very small if not negligible: in 1990–2017 authors from Indian and (mainland) Chinese universities published a total of 10.1 contributions, slightly more than Finland. Thus, the distribution by country of contributions in the T5-EH differed widely from the tentative estimates by Baten and Muschallik (2012) on the number of economic historians. They reckon that 17% of economic historians are working in Japan (1.1% of all contributions from 1997 to 2017) and 43% in other non-Western countries (4.4%).

The early dominance of Anglo-Saxon countries and the recent success of Continental European ones also appear clearly from the list of the top 10 institutions (Table 10). Three British universities, Cambridge, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Oxford, held the top spots overall and in each period, with the sole exception of Harvard (in the third place) during the Cliometric Revolution. Three Continental European universities, including Moscow State University, appear in the list in the first period; however, none appear in the second and third. In contrast, in 1997–2017, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Utrecht University and Lund University are fourth, seventh and ninth, respectively, and four other Continental European universities (Tubingen, Copenhagen, Antwerp and Munich) feature in the list of the top twenty-five institutions. The growth has continued to the present: in the last 5 years, the number of Continental European universities in the top 25 has risen to eleven, with a cumulated share higher than the British one (14.6% vs. 14%). In contrast, somewhat surprisingly, few American universities are in this list in 2013–2017 and, the best placed one, Harvard University, is only ninth.

The combination of the high share for the whole country and of comparatively low shares for its top universities suggests a wide dispersion of American economic historians. Indeed, in the 1940s, the Herfindahl–Hirschman Index (HHI) of concentration of contributions by affiliation was then fairly low, approximately one-third the British one (Table 10, last rows).21 The index declined sharply during the Cliometric Revolution, when the popularity of (by then) “new” economic history stimulated departments of economics all over the country to hire talented young scholars and remained pretty stable thereafter. The hiring of some very productive economic historians explains the high ranking of universities such as the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin in 1961–1996 (sixth and eighth, respectively) or the University of California Davis (eighth in 1997–2017). The British pattern differed somewhat. The concentration by institution declined from the high initial level in the 1970s, but then it rebounded in the twenty-first century. In 2013–2017, the top three British (and world) universities produced 45% of the contributions (and 10% of all worldwide contributions).The worldwide concentration by institution was very high before WWII, declined sharply in the 1960s and remained roughly constant to present. Thus, this concentration broadly reproduced the American trends in the long run, while in recent years the success of Continental European universities compensated for the growing concentration in the UK.

6 Conclusions

Instead of summing up the results, we deem it useful to extract from our analysis four general points.

First, we have highlighted several differences among the T5-EH, which ultimately can be traced to their institutional history. Three of them are “native cliometricians”: the EEH enters the database after the takeover by cliometricians in 1969, with an informal link to the Cliometrics Society after its foundation in 1985 (Neal 1994). The EREH was established as the journal of the European Historical Economics Society (Sharp 2013) and CLIO as the journal of the Association Française de Cliométrie (Diebolt 2016). In contrast, the EHR and the JEH had a long tradition, with a very strong home bias, and changed progressively since the 1960s, as the result of a takeover by a new generation of cliometricians (Lyons, Cain and Williamson 2007; Haupert 2016; Diebolt and Haupert 2016). In recent times, all journals have undoubtedly been converging, although not completely, towards a common model. The home bias, although somewhat reduced, remains strong, as shown by the low share of comparative articles; furthermore, some differences remain, for instance, in the use of econometric tools.

Second, our results downplay the impact of the Cliometric Revolution, at least in the short term. On the one hand, the conventional narrative regarding the period before the Revolution as dominated by a vaguely defined traditional or historical approach neglects the discontinuity caused by the establishment of the JEH. Before 1941, the EHR had published few articles, almost exclusively on British subjects, and largely focused on “Medieval” and “Early modern” periods. The JEH was much larger since the early years, and, given the home bias, there was a massive shift towards American economic history in the “Modern” period. Furthermore, there were also substantial methodological differences, at least according to the authoritative opinion of Charles Feinstein: “I’ve always thought that the Americans needed the Cliometric revolution because their work had lacked quantitative analysis entirely; whereas in Britain, we’d had a very long tradition of it. This was not cliometric in the shiny sense that it developed in America, with neoclassical economics and econometrics at its core, but it was deeply quantitative in terms of measuring what happened and making the numbers the basis for any analysis” (Thomas 2007: 293). On the other hand, the Cliometric Revolution took a very long time to fully display its effects, even in the American journals. Unfortunately, as stated, our database cannot capture the use of neoclassical economic reasoning; however, it does show that the topic distribution did not change that much and, above all, that the share of articles using econometrics increased very slowly, and they were not so prominent in terms of impact. These articles become the majority only in the 1990s, many years after the success of the (by then) “new” economic historians in their Methodenstreit with “traditional” ones. In all likelihood, the accomplishment of the Revolution had to wait for the early phase of the “4D (digitally driven data design) economic history” in which personal computers and software packages made it easy to manage data, produce figures and use econometric tools (Mitchener 2015). The diffusion of the Cliometric Revolution in Europe, and particularly in Continental Europe, was also delayed by the strong tradition of Marxist and Annales schools (for institutional details and country analysis, see Boldizzoni and Hudson 2016).

Third, the opinion of the community of leading economic historians on the current state of discipline seems somewhat overly optimistic. Economic history also does not appear to have become more comparative or more focused on peripheral countries. The home bias remains strong, and it may have been reinforced by the choice of editors: only in very recent times, some of the T5-EH have been edited by foreign scholars. The relevance of different topics did change over time, but, with some exceptions, the changes have not been permanent. The historical periods studied do not change considerably, even if as time goes by there is a “natural” increase in interest in the twentieth-century issues. Most articles use some econometrics, but only a minority of them features advanced techniques. Economic history is indeed becoming more democratic, but only within a well-defined geographical range. The number of co-authored articles has risen substantially; however, comparatively few of them involve international collaborations. Despite the large number of scholars active in developing regions (Baten and Muschallik 2012), publication on the T5-EH remains by and large limited to scholars from advanced countries. The most remarkable novelty is the great success of economic historians from Continental European universities. We speculate that this depends on institutional changes on both shores of the Atlantic. The growing relevance of publications in top international journals for promotion and funding in European universities is pushing scholars to submit their research in American and British journals.

Last but not least, our results confirm the caution of the majority of respondents to our survey towards the “integration of economic history into economics”. Certainly, the citation analysis shows a sizeable strengthening of overall connections between economic history and economics, with the highly relevant exception of flows of citations from the T5-E to the T5-EH journals. Furthermore, the number of economic history articles in leading economic journals, although greater than during the dark period of the 1970s and 1980s (McCloskey 1976, 1987), has been growing somewhat slowly since 2001 (Cioni et al. 2019). The number fluctuated with no clear upward trend in the “tyrannical” T5-E (Heckman and Moktan 2018), while it did increase in the other five journals we cover in the companion paper (Economic Journal, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Economic Growth, Journal of Economic Literature and Review of Economics and Statistics). However, we have chosen those latter journals exactly because they are quoted more frequently in the T5-EH; thus, it is unclear to what extent this result can be generalized to all other economics journals. This rise is clearly related to the incentives in American economics departments. They are increasingly using the publications in the T5-E and, as a second best, in other top economic journals, as the key criteria in their decision regarding tenures and salaries, reducing the incentives for publication in field journals, including economic history ones (Gibson et al. 2014; Heckman and Moktan 2018). Many of these papers deal with the present-day consequences of events in the past, following the “historical economics” approach pioneered by Acemoglu et al. (2001, 2002). These trends might be the harbinger of a new divergence between Europe and the USA, but it is likely too early to tell.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    We have contacted all authors who have published more frequently in the top five economic history journals in the last 20 years and the editors of these journals. We got a total of 60 answers of 100, a very high rate for a survey. We wish to thank all of them for their collaboration.

  2. 2.

    The survey received 332 responses from a total of about 1200 economic historians, selected according to different criteria (e.g. authorship in main journals or participation to economic history conferences).

  3. 3.

    Di Vaio and Weisdorf (2010) focus on economic history only, while they include in their list journals outside the WoS such as the Irish Economic and Social History, Jarhbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte and Rivista di Storia Economica as well as the Annales.

  4. 4.

    For the yearly data and additional comments on this issue, see the working paper version of this paper (Cioni et al. 2018, Table 3).

  5. 5.

    Books have been singled out on the basis of abbreviation of the titles of individual items or of series (such as Routledge Research in Gender and History or The Cambridge History of Science). Thus, there is a margin of uncertainty in the classification.

  6. 6.

    For a detailed analysis of the citation done and received by the T5-EH, see Cioni et al. (2018, Tables 4 and 5).

  7. 7.

    The EEH had been established in 1949 as Explorations in Entrepreneurial History, with Hugh G.J. Aitken as editor. It ceased in 1958 and restarted in 1963 as second series edited by Ralph L. Andreano. In 1969, the journal was renamed as Explorations in Economic History. Thus, we include it only since 1969, when it takes the current denomination (personal communication with Ralph L. Andreano in March 2019).

  8. 8.

    We have decided not to use the JEL codes of the American Economic Association because we deem them overly aggregate.

  9. 9.

    This method might yield false positives, if these words are quoted in the references, in the literature survey, or appear in negative statements (“we cannot use panel regression”). Thus, in any doubtful case, we have double-checked the results with a direct reading of the selected articles.

  10. 10.

    A Chi-square test rejects the null hypothesis of equal distribution at 1% for the long-run comparison between 1927–1940 and 1997–2017, and for all pairwise comparisons between subsequent periods except between the second and the third.

  11. 11.

    Articles on “Institutions” represented 10.5% of the total in the EHR (10.6% for all T5-EH) and the share rose from 9% in 1961–1996 (8.6% all journals) to 12.5% (13.3%) in 1997–2017.

  12. 12.

    These shares are computed on a total of 5903 articles, which excludes “no area” and “intercontinental” papers.

  13. 13.

    Continental Europe also includes comparative articles dealing with the UK and other European countries.

  14. 14.

    Our results for JEH and EEH tally well with results by Margo (2018), who measures the diffusion of econometric words by using Google Scholar. The results are only partially consistent with those by Wehrheim (2018), who extracts clusters of words from the JEH and label them ex post.

  15. 15.

    Table 6 reports the results of logit specifications, but results of probit models are almost identical. The sample in the advanced econometric regression is restricted to articles with some econometrics.

  16. 16.

    This figure may be slightly overstated, as the earlier issues of EHR reported, for some authors, only the initial of the given name.

  17. 17.

    These assumptions imply that all individuals who published at least one article since 1975 were professional economic historians and that they have continued to work in the field throughout all their career. This assumption is unlikely. Several authors belonged to other fields (Weingast, one of the two authors of the most cited article in the database, is a political scientist); others may have changed field in the meanwhile, or may have left academia, or, sadly, may have passed away. Furthermore, it is more likely that an author publishes her first article after, than before, her 30th birthday. The estimate includes authors who have published in recent years but who were not active around 2010, and thus, it overstates the number for the comparison with the estimate by Baten and Muschallik (2012).

  18. 18.

    All co-authored articles accounted for half of the total in the T5-E already in 1993 (vs. one-third in the economic history journals) and for about 80% in 2011 (vs. 55%). Articles co-authored by three or more individuals represented 28% in T5-E in 1993 and for 38.5% in 2011 (vs. 5% and 18%, respectively, for the T5-EH).

  19. 19.

    This estimate refers to the number of different polities during the entire period. Thus, for example, we consider Czechoslovakia from 1927 to 1992, and then, since 1993 to nowadays, we consider Slovakia and the Czech Republic as separate countries.

  20. 20.

    We compute population as the sum of 1940, 1960 and 1996.

  21. 21.

    We compute concentration with Herfindahl–Hirschman Indexes on ten-year rolling windows (i.e. 1931 is compute with data 1927–1936). The statement refers to the average 1945–2012, excluding the first period, when American contributions to the EHR were few and thus highly concentrated. For the full results of this analysis, see Cioni et al. (2018, Fig. 17a–c).

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Valeria Battisti, Giulia Cecchetti, Paolo Jonica Nova, Enrico Minnella, Valentina Nanni, Valentina Savelli, Andrea Severini, Federico Terzi, Francesco Tonen, Valeria Vitale, Giorgia Vitucci, Nicolò Zavarise and, particularly, Alberto Montesi, Sara Pecchioli and Stefano Susini for research assistance. We are grateful to Alberto Baccini, Lucio Barabesi, Sara Franceschi, Alessandro Nuvolari, Tiziano Razzolini and Marco Savioli for helpful comments and suggestions. Special thanks are due to Ralph L. Andreano, Larry Neal and Jeffrey Williamson for their useful information. A previous version of this paper has benefited from the comments of all participants at the 8th edition of the EH/tune Workshop held in Siena in November 2018 and at the Riccardo Faini CEIS seminars held in Rome (Tor Vergata) in March 2019. Last but not least, we wish to thank the editor Claude Diebolt and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments. The usual disclaimer applies.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 29087 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.University of PisaPisaItaly
  3. 3. NYU Abu DhabiAbu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
  4. 4.CEPRLondonUK

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