North’s NIEH in Historical Overview

  • Matthijs Krul
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought book series (PHET)


Krul gives a systematic overview of Douglass North’s New Institutionalist Economic History. He describes how North turned from early Marxist leanings to neoclassical methods in economic history, only to again abandon his previous thought and adopt the approach of New Institutionalist Economics. Krul then outlines the stages of the development of North’s theory in chronological order, emphasizing how each stage emerged to compensate for theoretical gaps in the previous one. The guiding thread is North’s early confrontation with the ideas of Karl Polanyi. As Krul shows, it was the research agenda North developed to refute Polanyi that drove all his subsequent thought. The chapter provides a clear summary of the core concepts of North’s approach and the main publications from which they derive.


  1. Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. 2012. Why Nations Fail. New York: Crown Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Ankarloo, Daniel. 2006. New Institutional Economics and Economic History: A Case of Economics Imperialism. Paper Presented to Historical Materialism Conference, London, 8–10 December.Google Scholar
  3. Barzel, Yoram. 2000. Property Rights and the Evolution of the State. Economics of Governance 1 (1): 25–51.Google Scholar
  4. Brownlow, Graham A. 2010. Structure and Change: Douglass North’s Economics. Journal of Economic Methodology 17 (3): 301–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dale, Gareth. 2010. Social Democracy, Embeddedness and Decommodification: On the Conceptual Innovations and Intellectual Affiliations of Karl Polanyi. New Political Economy 15 (3): 369–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ———. 2011. Lineages of Embeddedness: On the Antecedents and Successors of a Polanyian Concept. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 70 (2): 306–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davis, Lance. 1966. Professor Fogel and the New Economic History. The Economic History Review 19 (3): 657–663.Google Scholar
  8. Davis, Ann. 2008. Endogenous Institutions and the Politics of Property: Comparing and Contrasting Douglass North and Karl Polanyi in the Case of Finance. Journal of Economic Issues 42 (4): 1101–1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis, Lance, and Douglass C. North. 1970. Institutional Change and American Economic Growth: A First Step Towards a Theory of Institutional Innovation. The Journal of Economic History 30 (1): 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. ———. 1971. Institutional Change and American Economic Growth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Didry, Claude, and Caroline Vincensini. 2011. Beyond the Market-Institutions Dichotomy: The Institutionalism of Douglass C. North in Response to Karl Polanyi’s Challenge. HALSHS-00601544.Google Scholar
  13. Diebolt, Claude. 2012. Where Are We Now in Cliometrics? Historical Social Research 37 (4): 309–326.Google Scholar
  14. Fenoaltea, Stefano. 1975. The Rise and Fall of a Theoretical Model: The Manorial System. The Journal of Economic History 35 (2): 386–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Field, Alexander. 1981. The Problem with Neoclassical Institutional Economics: A Critique with Special Reference to the North/Thomas Model of Pre-1500 Europe. Explorations in Economic History 18 (2): 174–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fine, Ben, and Dimitris Milonakis. 2003. From Principle of Pricing to Pricing of Principle: Rationality and Irrationality in the Economic History of Douglass North. Comparative Studies in Society and History 45 (3): 546–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fogel, Robert W. 1964. Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 1966. The New Economic History: Its Findings and Methods. The Economic History Review 19 (3): 642–656.Google Scholar
  19. Furubotn, Eirik G., and Svetozar Pejovich. 1972. Property Rights and Economic Theory: A Survey of Recent Literature. Journal of Economic Literature 10 (4): 1137–1162.Google Scholar
  20. Galenson, David W. 1983. Structure and Change in Economic History. Douglass C. North. Journal of Political Economy 91 (1): 188–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gemici, Kurtulus. 2008. Karl Polanyi and the Antinomies of Embeddedness. Socio-Economic Review 6: 5–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Granovetter, Mark. 1985. Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology 91 (3): 481–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grdesic, Marko. 2016. What Do Economists Think of Karl Polanyi?. Accessed Feb 2018.
  24. Greif, Avner. 1994. Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies. Journal of Political Economy 102 (5): 912–950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Groenewegen, John, Frans Kerstholt, and Ad Nagelkerke. 1995. On Integrating Old and New Institutionalism: Douglass North Building Bridges. Journal of Economic Issues 29 (2): 467–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heiner, Ronald A. 1983. The Origin of Predictable Behavior. American Economic Review 73 (4): 560–595.Google Scholar
  27. Klein, Daniel B., and Ryan Daza. 2013. Douglass C. North. Economics Journal Watch 10 (3): 525–532.Google Scholar
  28. Kuran, Timur. 1986. The Economic System in Contemporary Islamic Thought. International Journal of Middle East Studies 18 (2): 135–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. ———. 1997. Islam and Underdevelopment: An Old Puzzle Revisited. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics/Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft 153 (1): 41–71.Google Scholar
  30. ———. 2003. The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East. Journal of Economic History 63 (2): 414–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Millward, Robert. 1983. Review: Structure and Change in Economic History. The Economic Journal 93 (372): 963–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nobel Foundation. 2015. Douglass C. North – Biographical. Accessed Feb 2018.
  33. North, Douglass C. 1958. Ocean Freight Rates and Economic Development 1730–1913. The Journal of Economic History 18 (4): 537–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. ———. 1961. The Economic Growth of the United States 1790–1860. Englewood: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  35. ———. 1968. Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600–1850. Journal of Political Economy 76 (5): 953–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. ———. 1971. Institutional Change and Economic Growth. The Journal of Economic History 31 (1): 118–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. ———. 1974. Beyond the New Economic History. The Journal of Economic History 34 (1): 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. ———. 1977. Markets and Other Allocation Systems in History: The Challenge of Karl Polanyi. Journal of European Economic History 6 (3): 703–716.Google Scholar
  39. ———. 1978. The Livelihood of Man. By Karl Polanyi. Business History Review 52 (3): 398–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. ———. 1981. Structure and Change in Economic History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. ———. 1988. Ideology and Economic/Political Institutions. Cato Journal 8 (1): 15–28.Google Scholar
  42. ———. 1990a. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. ———. 1990b. A Transaction Cost Theory of Politics. Journal of Theoretical Politics 2 (4): 355–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. ———. 1992. Institutions and Economic Theory. The American Economist 36 (1): 3–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. ———. 1993. What Do We Mean by Rationality? Public Choice 77 (1): 159–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. ———. 1994. The Historical Evolution of Polities. International Review of Law and Economics 14 (4): 381–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. ———. 2005. Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. ———. 2009. Interview with Karen Ilse Horn. In Roads to Wisdom: Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics, ed. Karen Ilse Horn, 153–172. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  49. North, Douglass C., and Robert Paul Thomas. 1970. An Economic Theory of the Growth of the Western World. The Economic History Review 23 (1): 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. ———. 1971. The Rise and Fall of the Manorial System: A Theoretical Model. The Journal of Economic History 31 (4): 777–803.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 1973. The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. North, Douglass C., and Barry R. Weingast. 1989. Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England. The Journal of Economic History 49 (4): 803–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. North, Douglass C., John Joseph Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast. 2009. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. North, Douglass C., Gardner Brown, and Dean Lueck. 2015. A Conversation with Douglass North. Annual Review of Resource Economics 7: 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Olson, Mancur. 1993. Dictatorship, Democracy and Development. The American Political Science Review 87 (3): 567–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Polanyi, Karl. 1944. The Great Transformation. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.Google Scholar
  57. ———. 1977. The Livelihood of Man: Studies in Social Discontinuity. Ed. Harry W. Pearson. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  58. Wallis, John Joseph. 2015. Structure and Change in Economic History: The Ideas of Douglass North. CEPR Policy Portal. Accessed Feb 2018.
  59. White, Lynn T. 1978. Medieval Religion and Technology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthijs Krul
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Social AnthropologyBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations