“The goal of my research is to reconstruct and explain long-term trajectories in the world economy, to better understand the deep historical roots of current day societal issues.”

Research focus: global issues for the global economy, long-term evolution of biodiversity

Jan Luiten van Zanden is Faculty Professor of Global economic history in an interdisciplinary perspective at Utrecht University. His research addresses global issues, such as inequality, poverty and sustainability. Initially his research agenda was focused on poverty and inequality in the world economy. More recently, the issue of gender inequality and its consequences for economic development has been central. This is also linked to the ‘beyond GDP’ debate, in which it is argued that well-being – the ‘true’ goal of development – is much broader than real income, and that we should developed broader measures of well-being to chart the ‘performance’ of countries. Jan Luiten van Zanden’s current interest also lies in sustainability and environmental topics, such as the long term evolution of biodiversity.

A central feature of his work is the desire to quantify – even the difficult-to-quantify phenomena, such as marriage systems, the influence of parliaments, gender inequality, security and biodiversity. A second important feature of his research is that it is interdisciplinary. Being trained as both an economist and historian, he values deeply the combination of a good understanding of historical context and sources with the use of theory, hypothesis testing and quantification. Jan Luiten van Zanden is furthermore inspired by ideas and methods of ‘neighbouring’ disciplines – such as the social sciences, anthropology, demography and evolutionary biology. A third feature of his research is the element of cooperation: his projects are founded upon teamwork and international collaboration. Good examples of this are the Maddison and Clio Infra projects.

Areas of interest:

  • Poverty and inequality in the global economy
  • Gender inequality
  • Broader measures of well-being
  • Evolution of biodiversity
  • Difficult to quantify phenomena

Global Economic History