Economic history


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Mousehold Heath (1810) by John Sell Cotman. Drawing on paper. According to the UK Government, between 1604 and 1914 enclosure Bills enacted by Parliament restricted access to formerly open communal land comprising just over a fifth of the total area of England. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Economic history
Economics for the people

Against the capitalist creeds of scarcity and self-interest, a plan for humanity’s shared flourishing is finally coming into view

Dirk Philipsen

Something for everyone. Workers at a Daimler-Benz car plant listen to a speech by a visiting dignitary in West Germany circa 1972. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Economic history
Thirty glorious years

Postwar prosperity depended on a truce between capitalist growth and democratic fairness. Is it possible to get it back?

Jonathan Hopkin

Residents line up for cow beans provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ease an ongoing food crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Mainok village, Western Borno State, Nigeria, 11 February 2017. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII/Headpress

Essay/
Poverty and development
The billionaire curse

Philanthropy is vital – but its mechanisms are as intricate and troubling as the baroque structures of high finance

Katharyne Mitchell

Guilin, China. 1979. Photo by Hiroji Kubota/Magnum

Essay/
Economic history
Counting China

By rejecting sampling in favour of exhaustive enumeration, communist China’s dream of total information became a nightmare

Arunabh Ghosh

‘Culling Tea’ (c1869), attributed to Lai Fong (or Afong, Chinese, 1839-90). Courtesy The Met Museum, New York

Essay/
Economic history
Tea and capitalism

The China tea trade was a paradox: a global, intensified industry without the usual spectacle of factories and technology

Andrew Liu

Jewish bankers from the Canticles of Holy Mary. Codice of El Escorial. Written in Galician-Portuguese. Reign of Alfonso X. 13th century. Courtesy the Museum of the Americas, Madrid/Wikimedia

Essay/
Global history
The rumour about the Jews

Antisemitism flourished in response to the unsettling, abstract growth of finance capitalism in the early modern world

Francesca Trivellato

A hunting party brings back a bowhead whale during the spring whaling season near Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. Photo by Kate Orlinsky/National Geographic

Essay/
Animals and humans
Turn and live with animals

The slaughterhouse ethic of Soviet and American whalers tells us we must look beyond communism and capitalism to survive

Bathsheba Demuth

Dark Satanic Mills. October 1948. Photo Robert Capa © International Center of Photography

Essay/
Religion
Mammon

Far from representing rationality and logic, capitalism is modernity’s most beguiling and dangerous form of enchantment

Eugene McCarraher

The August 1926 edition of Radio Broadcast magazine, three years before the 1929 crash. Scan courtesy of Americanradiohistory.com

Essay/
Economic history
The economics of bubbles

Market booms and busts might be irrational, but we can understand why they happen – and what to do to mitigate the damage

Brent Goldfarb & David A Kirsch

Detail from Cerro Rico and the Imperial Municipality of Potosí (1758), by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío. Courtesy Museo Universitario Charcas, Sucre, Bolivia/AKG

Essay/
Cities
The first global city

High in the Andes, Potosí supplied the world with silver, and in return reaped goods and peoples from Burma to Baghdad

Kris Lane

The Hongs at Canton (c1820), unknown artist. Chinese school. Photo by AKG London

Essay/
Nations and empires
Scots running amok

As loan sharks, drug smugglers, generals and plant hunters, Scots played a central role in expanding the British Empire

Jessica Hanser

Roping calves, Paradise Valley, Nevada, in 1979. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer/Library of Congress

Essay/
Animals and humans
American bull

The story of American beef is like the story of the nation as a whole: a mashup of history and myth, bloody and contested

Joshua Specht

Detail from Nagasaki Harbour (c1833-6), by Kawahara Keiga. Ink and colour on silk. On the left is the crescent-shaped island of Deshima (flying the national flag), from which the Dutch were the only Westerners to trade with Japan from 1641 to 1859. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Nations and empires
Asia had the upper hand

For centuries, Europeans in Asia were guests, trading partners and subordinates. Only much later did Empire seem imaginable

Chris Nierstrasz

US President Bill Clinton standing in Red Square during a Moscow summit in January 1994. Photo by Diana Walker/Time Life Pictures/Getty

Essay/
Economic history
Economics as a moral tale

The development sector set out to summon the magic of capitalism from the ashes of communism. How is it going?

John Rapley

Lemon vendors in Palermo, Sicily, in 1943. Photo by J R Eyerman/LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Essay/
Economic history
The big squeeze

Sicily’s mafia sprang from the growing global market for lemons – a tale with sour parallels for consumers today

Ola Olsson

A 1937 poster for the Rural Electrification Program. From the invention of Edisons light bulb, mass electrification outside the big cities took half a century. Graphic design by Lester Beall, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Essay/
Future of technology
The blitzscaling illusion

All the great inventions took painstaking, risky, indirect routes to fruition. Has Silicon Valley really escaped history?

Edward Tenner