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China, Europe, and the Great Divergence: A Study in Historical National Accounting, 980–1850

  • Stephen Broadberry (a1), Hanhui Guan (a2) and David Daokui Li (a3)


As a result of recent advances in historical national accounting, estimates of GDP per capita are now available for a number of European economies back to the medieval period, including Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. The approach has also been extended to Asian economies, including India and Japan. So far, however, China, which has been at the center of the Great Divergence debate, has been absent from this approach. This article adds China to the picture, showing that the Great Divergence began earlier than originally suggested by the California School, but later than implied by older Eurocentric writers.


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This paper began as part of the Collaborative Project HI-POD supported by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research, Contract Number SSH7-CT-2008-225342. David Daokui Li and Hanhui Guan acknowledge financial support from the National Social Science Foundation (15ZDB130, 13BJL016). We are grateful to Jack Goldstone, Peter Lindert, Debin Ma, Bas van Leeuwen, Peter Temin, Tom Weiss, and to seminar/conference participants at Columbus, Istanbul, Lund, Lyon, Odense, Vienna, and York for helpful comments and suggestions. Pei Gao provided invaluable research assistance. We also owe our gratitude to two anonymous referees and Ann Carlos, the editor of this JOURNAL, for helpful guidance.



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