Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Great Divergence

It looks like Europe started to pull away from Asia in economic performance a lot earlier than previously thought, in the case of Italy as early as 1300.

Europe as a whole had a critical advantage over China: being further away from Mongolia, and also benefited from the introduction of of the vertical windmill. Italy was improving shipbuilding as it married the capacious hull of the northern cog to a handier multi-mast Mediterranean rig, and introducing some powerful and important business innovations: double-entry bookkeeping, foreign exchange and insurance contracts, and the legal fictions that allowed Christians to be bankers.

We take these technologies of doing business for granted today, but the difference between having them and not having them was huge.

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