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An Unlevel Playing Field : National Income Estimates and Reciprocal Comparison in Global Economic History

Jerven, Morten LU (2012) In Journal of Global History 7(1). p.107-128
Abstract
If we take recent income per capita estimates at face value, they imply that the average medieval European was at least five times ‘better off’ than the average Congolese today. This raises important questions regarding the meaning and applicability of national income estimates throughout time and space, and their use in the analysis of global economic history over the long term. This article asks whether national income estimates have a historical and geographical specificity that renders the ‘data’ increasingly unsuitable and misleading when assessed outside a specific time and place. Taking the concept of ‘reciprocal comparison’ as a starting point, it further questions whether national income estimates make sense in pre-and... (More)
If we take recent income per capita estimates at face value, they imply that the average medieval European was at least five times ‘better off’ than the average Congolese today. This raises important questions regarding the meaning and applicability of national income estimates throughout time and space, and their use in the analysis of global economic history over the long term. This article asks whether national income estimates have a historical and geographical specificity that renders the ‘data’ increasingly unsuitable and misleading when assessed outside a specific time and place. Taking the concept of ‘reciprocal comparison’ as a starting point, it further questions whether national income estimates make sense in pre-and post-industrial societies, in decentralized societies, and in polities outside the temperate zone. One of the major challenges in global history is Eurocentrism. Resisting the temptation to compare the world according to the most conventional development measure might be a recommended step in overcoming this bias. (Less)
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author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Africa, economic history, national income accounting, reciprocal comparison
in
Journal of Global History
volume
7
issue
1
pages
22 pages
publisher
Cambridge University Press
external identifiers
  • scopus:84857893403
ISSN
1740-0228
DOI
10.1017/S174002281100060X
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
14f76dd7-b32d-428e-ac25-f63407c463ed
date added to LUP
2017-06-16 05:12:51
date last changed
2017-06-26 15:31:54
@article{14f76dd7-b32d-428e-ac25-f63407c463ed,
  abstract     = {If we take recent income per capita estimates at face value, they imply that the average medieval European was at least five times ‘better off’ than the average Congolese today. This raises important questions regarding the meaning and applicability of national income estimates throughout time and space, and their use in the analysis of global economic history over the long term. This article asks whether national income estimates have a historical and geographical specificity that renders the ‘data’ increasingly unsuitable and misleading when assessed outside a specific time and place. Taking the concept of ‘reciprocal comparison’ as a starting point, it further questions whether national income estimates make sense in pre-and post-industrial societies, in decentralized societies, and in polities outside the temperate zone. One of the major challenges in global history is Eurocentrism. Resisting the temptation to compare the world according to the most conventional development measure might be a recommended step in overcoming this bias.},
  author       = {Jerven, Morten},
  issn         = {1740-0228},
  keyword      = {Africa,economic history,national income accounting,reciprocal comparison},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {107--128},
  publisher    = {Cambridge University Press},
  series       = {Journal of Global History},
  title        = {An Unlevel Playing Field : National Income Estimates and Reciprocal Comparison in Global Economic History},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S174002281100060X},
  volume       = {7},
  year         = {2012},
}