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.
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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.
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).
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.
For the yearly data and additional comments on this issue, see the working paper version of this paper (Cioni et al. 2018, Table 3).
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.
For a detailed analysis of the citation done and received by the T5-EH, see Cioni et al. (2018, Tables 4 and 5).
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).
We have decided not to use the JEL codes of the American Economic Association because we deem them overly aggregate.
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.
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.
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.
These shares are computed on a total of 5903 articles, which excludes “no area” and “intercontinental” papers.
Continental Europe also includes comparative articles dealing with the UK and other European countries.
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.
This figure may be slightly overstated, as the earlier issues of EHR reported, for some authors, only the initial of the given name.
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).
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).
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.
We compute population as the sum of 1940, 1960 and 1996.
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).
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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.
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Cioni, M., Federico, G. & Vasta, M. The long-term evolution of economic history: evidence from the top five field journals (1927–2017). Cliometrica 14, 1–39 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11698-019-00186-x