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cliometrics, cliometrics definition
Cliometrics klīəˈmetriks, sometimes called new economic history,1 or econometric history,2 is the systematic application of economic theory, econometric techniques, and other formal or mathematical methods to the study of history especially, social and economic history3 It is a quantitative as opposed to qualitative or ethnographic approach to economic history4 The term cliometrics comes from Clio, who was the muse of history, and was originally coined by the mathematical economist Stanley Reiter in 19605

Clio by Pierre Mignard, oil on canvas, 1689


  • 1 History of the discipline
  • 2 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
  • 3 Critics
  • 4 Distinguishing cliometrics and cliodynamics
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links
    • 81 Associations

History of the disciplineedit

The new economic history originated in 1958 with The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South by American economists Alfred H Conrad and John R Meyer, which caused a firestorm of controversy with its claim, based on statistical data, that slavery, being economically efficient and highly profitable for slaves owners, would not have ended in the absence of the US Civil War46 The new economic history revolution actually began in the mid-1960s and was resisted because many incumbent economic historians were either historians or economists who had very little connection to economic modeling or statistical techniques7 Areas of key interest included transportation history,8 slavery,4 and agriculture Cliometrics became better known when Douglass North and William Parker became the editors of the Journal of Economic History in 1960 The Cliometrics Meetings began to be held around this time at Purdue University and are still held annually in different locations Today, cliometric approaches are standard in several journals, including the Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, the European Review of Economic History, and Cliometrica

According to cliometric economist Claudia Goldin, the success of the cliometric revolution had as an unintended consequence the disappearance of economic historians from history departments As economic historians started using the same tools as economists, they started to seem more like other economists In Goldin's words, "the new economic historians extinguished the other side"9 The other side nearly disappeared altogether, with only a few remaining in history departments and business schools However, some new economic historians did, in fact, begin research around this time, among them were Kemmerer and Larry Neal a student of Albert Fishlow, a leader of the cliometric revolution from Illinois, Paul Uselding from Johns Hopkins, Jeremy Atack from Indiana, and Thomas Ulen from Stanford

A group to encourage and further the study of cliometrics, The Cliometric Society, was founded in 1983

Cliometrics was introduced to Germany by American-born and -educated Richard H Tilly since the 1970s10

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economicsedit

In October 1993, the Swedish National Bank awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to Robert William Fogel and Douglass Cecil North "for having renewed research in economic history" The Academy noted that "they were pioneers in the branch of economic history that has been called the 'new economic history,' or cliometrics"11 Fogel and North received the prize for turning the theoretical and statistical tools of modern economics on the historical past: on subjects ranging from slavery and railroads to ocean shipping and property rights

Fogel is often described as the father of modern econometric history11 He's especially noted for using careful empirical work to overturn conventional wisdom North, a professor at Washington University in St Louis, was honored as a pioneer in the "new" institutional history In the Nobel announcement,11 specific mention was made of a 1968 paper on ocean shipping, in which North showed that organizational changes played a greater role in increasing productivity than did technical change12


Cliometrics has had sharp critics Boldizzoni summarized a common critique by arguing that cliometrics is based on the false assumption that the laws of neo-classical economics always apply to human activity Those laws, he says, are based on rational choice and maximization as they operate in well-developed markets, and do not apply to economies other than those of the capitalist West in the modern era Instead, Boldizzoni argues that the workings of economies are determined by social, political and cultural conditions specific to each society and time period13

On the other hand, Diebolt14 argued that cliometrics is mature and well accepted by scholars as an "indispensable tool" in economic history He says most scholars agree that economic theory, combined with new data as well as historical and statistical methods are necessary to formulate problems precisely, to draw conclusions from postulates and to gain insight into complicated processes At the applied level, cliometrics is accepted as the way to measure variables and estimate parameters15

A criticism of Cliometrics by Joseph T Salerno, based on the perspective of the Austrian School of economics, especially that of Ludwig von Mises, can be found in his Introduction to Murray N Rothbard's A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II16

Distinguishing cliometrics and cliodynamicsedit

Cliometrics and cliodynamics share the scientific ambition of using quantitative tools and historical data to test general historical principles Both fields endeavor to gather large amounts of historical data across big samples However, the two fields also differ in several important ways Cliodynamics, unlike cliometrics, maintains a close relationship with the natural sciences, often employing dominant methods from the natural sciences such as differential-equation models, power-law relations, and agent-based models Evolutionary game theory and social network analysis are also frequently employed by cliodynamicists, but not cliometricians Cliodynamicists also tend to include factors associated with ecological context and biological determinants in their models17

See alsoedit

  • Economic history
  • Quantitative history
  • Cliodynamics


  1. ^ Fogel, Robert December 1966 "The New Economic History Its Findings and Methods" Economic History Review 19 3: 642–656 doi:101111/j1468-02891966tb00994x JSTOR 2593168 The 'new economic history', sometimes called economic history or cliometrics, is not often practiced in Europe However, it is fair to say that efforts to apply statistical and mathematical models currently occupy the centre of the stage in American economic history 
  2. ^ Woodman, Harold 1972 "Economic History and Economic Theory: The New Economic History in America" Journal of Interdisciplinary History 3 2: 323–350 JSTOR 202334 Among the most recent of the changes in emphasis-today's new history-is the rise of the "new economic history" or, as it is variously called, econometric history or cliometric 
  3. ^ https://wwwspringercom/us/book/9783642404054
  4. ^ a b c Edward L Glaeser, "Remembering the Father of Transportation Economics", The New York Times Economix, October 27, 2009
  5. ^ Goldin, Claudia Spring 1995 "Cliometrics and the Nobel" The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 2: 191–208 p 191 doi:101257/jep92191 JSTOR 2138173 
  6. ^ Conrad, Alfred H; Meyer, John R 1958 "The Economics of Slavery in the Ante Bellum South" Journal of Political Economy 66 2: 95–130 doi:101086/258020 JSTOR 1827270 
  7. ^ Goldin, Claudia Spring 1995 "Cliometrics and the Nobel" The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 2: 191–208 p 194 doi:101257/jep92191 JSTOR 2138173 
  8. ^ Fogel, R 1964 Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History 1st ed The Johns Hopkins University Press ISBN 0-8018-0201-6 
  9. ^ Goldin, Claudia Spring 1995 "Cliometrics and the Nobel" The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 2: 191–208 p 206 doi:101257/jep92191 JSTOR 2138173 
  10. ^ Verleihung des Helmut-Schmidt-Preises 2009 an Richard Hugh Tilly
  11. ^ a b c The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1993, Press Release, October 12, 2003
  12. ^ North, Douglass C 1968 "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850" Journal of Political Economy 76 5: 953–970 doi:101086/259462 JSTOR 1830031 
  13. ^ Boldizzoni, Francesco 2011 The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History Princeton University Press ISBN 9780691144009 
  14. ^ "Cliometrica after 10 years: definition and principles of cliometric research" Cliometrica 10: 1–4 doi:101007/s11698-015-0136-z 
  15. ^ Diebolt, Claude 2012 "Where Are We Now in Cliometrics Kliometrie: wo stehen wir heute" Historical Social Research 37 4: 309–326 
  16. ^ Rothbard, Murray 2002 A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II Ludwig von Mises Institute ISBN 0945466331 
  17. ^ Mejía, Javier 2015 "The Evolution of Economic History since 1950: From Cliometrics to Cliodynamics" Tiempo & Economia 2 2: 79–103 Retrieved 2 August 2016 

Further readingedit

  • Boldizzoni, Francesco 2011 The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History Princeton University Press  Excerpt in The Montreal Review
  • Drukker, J W 2006 The Revolution that Bit its Own Tail: How Economic History Changed our Ideas on Economic Growth Amsterdam 
  • Fogel, R 1964 Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History 
  • Fogel, Robert William; Engerman, Stanley L 1995 Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery Reissue ed New York: W W Norton and Company ISBN 0-393-31218-6 
  • Lyons, John S; Cain, Louis P; Williamson, Samuel H, eds 2008 Reflections on the Cliometrics Revolution: Conversations with Economic Historians Routledge ISBN 978-0-415-70091-7  Reprinted interviews from the Newsletter of the Cliometric Society
  • North, Douglas 1965 "The State of Economic History" American Economic Review 55 1–2: 86–91 JSTOR 1816246 
  • North, Douglas; Thomas, Robert 1973 The Rise of the Western World: a New Economic History Cambridge University Press 

External linksedit

  • Economic History – The Rise of Cliometrics Or The New Economic History
  • Podcast Interview with Stanley Engerman of Fogel and Engerman's Time on the Cross on EconTalk at Econlib The book that accelerated cliometrics


  • The Cliometric Society
  • LSE Cliometrics Group
  • Association Française de Cliométrie

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