How do social and economic disparities arise between and within countries?

The Economic and Social History research group is focused on long-term developments in the world economy and societies, from the late Middle Ages to the present day. Our central research questions are: How do social and economic disparities arise between and within countries? How have these developed and how can they be explained?

In order to answer these questions we chart the long-term development of various regions of the world. We do this by looking at various indicators of economic and welfare development such as institutions, the degree of interaction with the global market, geographical aspects, culture and religion.

Comparative perspective

Our research method is characterised by the comparative perspective in which the Dutch 'case study' plays a major role. The Netherlands – or more accurately 'the Low Countries' – is a special case in world history. As far back as the late Middle Ages and early modern period, the Netherlands already displayed many 'modern' aspects such as social equality, a strong civil society, well-protected property rights and periods of rapid economic growth. By analysing the development of the Dutch economy and society we attempt to gain an understanding of these patterns of modernisation, which we can then compare with other areas in the world.

Interdisciplinarity

A second characteristic of our research method is its interdisciplinary nature: we use quantitative historical data to test theories from the social and economic sciences. Much of the research takes an in-depth look at various aspects of social and economic development. We examine financial markets, life expectancy and sex ratio, how the polders were governed and how the Dutch dealt with disasters. We also pay much attention to the recent history of the Dutch business sector, in collaboration with representatives from the sector.

News

© iStockphoto.com/olaser
20 December 2016
This is revealed by the Comprehensive Indicator of Well-being, an integrated measure that illuminates the development of broadly defined well-being.
20 December 2016
The projects will be on property, power, markets, knowledge in Indonesia, and about language: meaning, time, language development and African drum language.
Bas van Bavel - The Invisible Hand?
1 August 2016
The end of the Western market economy is approaching, states economic historian Bas van Bavel.
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Events

12 April 2017 15:00 - 20:00
A lecture in honour of Prof. F. de Vries to further the advancement of economics
© iStockphoto.com/Cisquete
10 July 2017 16:00 - 14 July 2017 19:00
The XVI Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) takes place in Utrecht in 2017.
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Groepsportret van Economische en Sociale Geschiedenis. Foto: Marijn Smulders
Areas of expertise: business history | polder model | history of the creative industry | business models and strategies | collective action | citizenship | the Dutch Golden Age | commons | self-governance | financial markets before 1800 | Dutch East India Company