The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

History and Comparative Development

  • Louis Putterman
Reference work entry


What role do historical factors play in explaining the large differences in level of economic development among different countries and world regions today? Our answer begins with the observation that cross-country differences in level of economic development, as well as in rate of economic growth since the end of the European colonial era, are strongly correlated with the average levels of technological and political advance in the places the current population’s ancestors lived on the eve of that era and earlier. We explore recent literature in economics that addresses the evidence for and the causes of this correlation. The interplay between geography and human capital (broadly understood as including culture, norms, and institutional capability) has a central part in our discussion.


Agricultural revolution Ancestry Colonial era Colonies Industrial revolution Less developed countries Linguistic distance Migration neolithic revolution 

JEL Classifications

N5 O10 Z1 
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Putterman
    • 1
  1. 1.