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England's Divergence from China's Yangzi Delta: Property Relations, Microeconomics, and Patterns of Development

  • Robert Brenner and Christopher Isett
Extract

In the great divergence, Kenneth Pomeranz (2000) proposes a radical revision of our understanding of the pattern of economic evolution in the eastern and western ends of Eurasia over the course of the early modern and modern periods, roughly late Ming and Qing. A recent restatement of the standard or traditional view can be found in the macro-economic historian Angus Maddison's account of world economic development in the very long run, The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective (2001), which sums up his argument in Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run (1998). According to Maddison, “Western Europe overtook China … in per capita performance in the fourteenth century. Thereafter China [was] … more or less stagnant in per capita terms until the second half of the twentieth century” (2001, 44). In contrast, Pomeranz insists that if the comparative focus is placed, as only makes sense, not on Europe or China as a whole—both of which contained the most disparate regions at vastly different levels of economic development—but on the most advanced, or core, areas within each, it can be seen that, by as late as 1800, there was little to choose between them, in terms of the character of the economy, the nature of growth, or its results (2000, 7–8).

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