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December 06, 2010

Medieval England had $1000 per capita income and an earlier ramp up for the Industrial Revolution

New research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world’s poorest nations today.

In a paper entitled British Economic Growth 1270-1870 published by the University of Warwick’s Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) the researchers find that living standards in medieval England were far above the “bare bones subsistence” experience of people in many of today’s poor countries.

This new figure of $1,000 is not only significantly higher than previous estimates for that period in England – it also indicates that on average medieval England was better off than some of the world’s poorest nations today

The research shows that the path to the Industrial Revolution began far earlier than commonly has been understood. A widely held view of economic history suggests that the Industrial Revolution of 1800 suddenly took off, in the wake of centuries without sustained economic growth or appreciable improvements in living standards in England from the days of the hunter-gatherer. By contrast, we find that the Industrial Revolution did not come out of the blue. Rather, it was the culmination of a long period of economic development stretching back as far as the late medieval period

This relates to technology singularity economics.

Robin Hanson has a theory related to shifts in economic growth rates.

Mode      Doubling   Date Began   Doubles  Doubles  Transition
  Grows     Time (DT)  To Dominate  of DT    of WP    CES Power
----------  ---------  -----------  ------   -------  ----------
Brain size   34M yrs    550M B.C.     ?       "16"      ?
Hunters     224K yrs   2000K B.C.    7.3      8.9       ?
Farmers      909 yrs    4856 B.C.    7.9      7.6      2.4
Industry     6.3 yrs    2020 A.D.    7.2     >9.2      0.094   

The Medieval England (1500-1730) doubling period was 100 years.
From 1730-1910 doubling period was 58 years.
From 1910-2010 there has been a doubling period of about 15 years.

The 15 year doubling time is 4.7-4.8% GDP growth. An improvement of doubling time by 3-5 times would indicate another level of progress that is line with the long term historic trend.

A pre-singularity phase with two doublings at a more modest improvement level would be to the 9-12% per year growth level that China is experiencing. Technology could enable that level for the entire world. Then 15% for 3-4 doublings and then 20-25% for the singularity level.





The full paper is available


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