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Energy crisis and growth 1650–1850: the European deviation in a comparative perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2006

Paolo Malanima
ISSM-CNR, Via P. Castellino, 111, 80131 Naples, Italy E-mail:


The present article adopts a comparative perspective contrasting the agricultural civilization of Europe with the agricultural civilizations of other regions to understand the reasons for Europe’s transition to modern energy carriers. In Europe—especially in the West and North—specific ecological conditions determined a stronger need for energy than in other coeval agrarian civilizations. The rapid growth of the European population from the second half of the seventeenth century onward, on the one hand, and worsening climatic conditions, on the other, determined an energy crisis and a lowering of living standards, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century and the first two decades of the nineteenth. After 1820, a shift to different, cheaper energy carriers laid the foundation for a new age of growth.

© London School of Economics and Political Science

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