UNIT 1: ECONOMIC HISTORY'S TWO MOST SIGNIFICANT
Relationship Between History and Economics
1. OLD ECON HISTORY-- German in origin, descriptive/narrative in style, big on data (dates + names)
2. NEW ECON HISTORY-- Austrian, theoretical/analytical, emerged in 1940s/50s, "cliometrics" applies
economic models to explain historical events
WTF IS HISTORY?? -- Studying ends, means, and consequences. Historians too concrete-bound, relying
Counterfactual history-- seeks to explore "what if." For example, what would have happened
if JFK hadn't been assassinated? Every causal statement has a counterfactual.
WTF IS ECON? -- Studying the logic of choice under the condition of scarcity.
B. Nature of Gov't
1."LEGITIMIZED MONOPOLY ON COERCION
a. Coercion-- war, taxes, law enforcement, etc.
b. Monopoly-- think Waco, TX
2. FUNCTION OF GOV'T-- maintain property systems (how people obtain goods, services, etc), inclduing:
THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION
Causes and Consequences
15,000 yrs ago-- AgRev begins during Neolithic era, categorized by a shift from
hunter/gatherer societies to agricultural/animal husbandry societies
a. Hunter/Gatherers-- small bands of population, migratory, no cities/states, little trade (did have
ritualistic gifts), no property rights, egalitarian, small-scale but incessant warfare, low life
expectancy due to war, but generally healthy
b. Agricultural/Animal Husbandry-- larger, denser pop'ns, sedentary, emerging city states,
markets, complex system of land ownership, hierarchical, more intense warfare but w/ division
of labor, longer life expectancy despite unhealthy lifestyles >> "immiseration of the masses"
2. CAUSES-- due in part to climate changes and extinction of megaflora & fauna, but primarily b/c of law
of diminishing marginal returns. As population grows, marginal product of labor decreases more rapidly
for H/G societies.
3. EFFECTS-- microparasites (diseases from animals) and macroparasites (gov't, i.e. more susceptible to
raids and enslavement)
a. Thomas Malthus-- if living standards increase, then populat'n increases, which eventually
reduces living standards. Believed populat'n growth would ultimately cause widespread famine.
The Americas before European Contact
13,000 - 15,000 years ago-- people cross Bering Straight into North America
10,000 BC-- ppl reach Tierra Del Fuego. Population of New World grows to 75 million by 1492,
whereas European population was only 70 million. No horses or cattle.
3,500 BC-- AgRev begins in Americas, and not until 2,500 BC in Eastern US.