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.
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.