Economic History and Cliometrics

Authored by: Louis P. Cain , Robert Whaples

Routledge Handbook of Modern Economic History

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415677042
eBook ISBN: 9780203075616
Adobe ISBN: 9781135121211


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As this Handbook demonstrates, economic history is an active field that investigates a wide range of topics. The dominant method used by economic historians over the past half-century is cliometrics. The name “cliometrics” comes from joining “Clio” (the Greek Muse of history) with “metrics” (measurement), but cliometrics goes an important step beyond merely measuring historical events. It structures its measurements with economic theory, especially (but by no means exclusively) the neoclassical theory that has dominated economics for several generations. It often develops explicit models of how economic agents (such as households and firms), as well as entire economies, have behaved and interacted historically. Thus, in addition to measuring economic outcomes, cliometrics seeks to understand their causes. This chapter outlines the development of cliometrics and helps put the other chapters in this Handbook into context by examining how cliometrics is practiced.

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