The World Economy by the OECD Development Centre
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This web site aims at presenting our bestsellers The World Economy: a millenial perspective, by Prof. Angus Maddison
The World Economy is a monumental work of reference and a “must” for all scholars and students of economics and economic history, as well as a mine of fascinating facts for everyone else.
LATE NOTE: Angus Maddison passed away on 24 April 2010.

The Contours of World Development

Over the past millennium, world population rose 22–fold. Per capita income increased 13–fold, world GDP nearly 300–fold. This contrasts sharply with the preceding millennium, when world population grew by only a sixth, and there was no advance in per capita income.

From the year 1000 to 1820 the advance in per capita income was a slow crawl — the world average rose about 50 per cent. Most of the growth went to accommodate a fourfold increase in population.

Since 1820, world development has been much more dynamic. Per capita income rose more than eightfold, population more than fivefold.

Per capita income growth is not the only indicator of welfare. Over the long run, there has been a dramatic increase in life expectation. In the year 1000, the average infant could expect to live about 24 years. A third would die in the first year of life, hunger and epidemic disease would ravage the survivors. There was an almost imperceptible rise up to 1820, mainly in Western Europe. Most of the improvement has occurred since then. Now the average infant can expect to survive 66 years.

The growth process was uneven in space as well as time. The rise in life expectation and income has been most rapid in Western Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan. By 1820, this group had forged ahead to an income level twice that in the rest of the world. By 1998, the gap was 7:1. Between the United States and Africa the gap is now 20:1. This gap is still widening. Divergence is dominant but not inexorable. In the past half century, resurgent Asian countries have demonstrated that an important degree of catch–up is feasible. Nevertheless world economic growth has slowed substantially since 1973, and the Asian advance has been offset by stagnation or retrogression elsewhere.

Advances in population and income over the past millennium

a) Conquest or settlement of relatively empty areas which had fertile land, new biological resources, or a potential to accommodate transfers of population, crops and livestock

b) international trade and capital movement

c) technological and institutional innovation

The Impact of Western Development

a) An introduction

b) Europe's decline from the first to tenth centuries.

c) Western europe recovers and forges ahead, 10001500

The Chinese Economic Performance

China now plays a much bigger role in the world economy and its importance is likely to increase further. Read more.

Read also:
The West and the Rest in the International Economic Order
The international economic order has changed in the last 40 years and will no doubt go on changing, as leading economist, Angus Maddison, explains in this article from December 2002.


The World Economy: A Tale of Four Economies

The figure, based on Prof. Angus Maddison’s research shows clearly that the economic growth of the four leading world economies was in no way lineal.  The four moving points on the graph represent the economies of China, Western Europe, the former URSS and the United States. Looking at the sub-categories of population, GDP and GDP per capita you can see that China was the largest economy in the world for centuries. It was not until the 19th Century that Western Europe finally caught up and soon after the United States assumed leadership. Now it looks like China is set to take back its title of largest economy on the planet.

To gain a greater understanding of the concepts involved, click on unique colors under the color heading on the right hand side of the chart to better differentiate between the four states or regions.


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