Economic growth and inequality. Explaining divergent regional growth paths in pre-industrial Europe (Late Middle Ages – 19th century)

Start - End 
2015 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of History
Research Focus 
Research Methodology 



This GOA-project aims to give new impetus to the current tendency in economic and social research to bring history to bear on contemporary questions of unequal welfare and growth. The central ambition is to study and explain the mechanisms behind the diverging regional growth trajectories in late medieval and early modern Europe, the core area of the future global economic model. Until the 19th century the rural world was the economic backbone of Europe. However, the extent and the long term success of growth differed considerably between rural areas. The central question of this project is how regional differences in the durability of growth can be explained. Contrary to mainstream research that often adopts a-historical national frameworks we start from the local and regional levels, since economic activities in the past were predominantly regionally organized (the agro-systemic approach).

The project is based on a twofold, interrelated hypothesis. First, patterns of accumulation (growth) and (re-)distribution (in-/equality) are determined by the organization of the power and property structures and relations and the way they are embedded in societal institutional structures. As a second  (and derived) hypothesis we state that differences in both the extent and the durability of economic growth are correlated with the way income and capital are (re)distributed. Thorough and systematic research into the origins and success of regional trajectories of economic growth in a long-term historical and comparative perspective remains scarce to this date. In this project we bring together four regional case-studies in a broad European context. They will be studied through a detailed comparative framework, based on original, in-depth analysis of primary source materials. 



Phd Student(s)



Pinar Ceylan

Ghent University

Koen Schoors

UGent - Economie en Bedrijfskunde