Jan Luiten Van Zanden - Biography#

Why are some countries rich and others poor? When did global inequality begin to emerge, and what can be learned from this process? And when will it come to an end? Jan Luiten van Zanden has devoted his career to reconstruct the historical development of global inequality, and to find out why certain countries, such as The Netherlands, have been relatively successful, whereas others, for example Indonesia, lagged behind. He first of all focused on reconstructing the ‘facts’: how did welfare develop in the very long run in the various parts of the world economy. Part of this research went back to the Middle Ages, when the first foundations for Western prosperity were laid. Next, he aims to explain the long term trends in the world economy making use of recent theoretical insights into the drivers of development. In this recent work he stresses the role played by (female) agency in economic development (via, for example, the decisions taken by women about fertility and human capital formation) and of institutions which make it possible to share power and restrain the executive (for example in his – together with Maarten Prak - history of the Dutch poldermodel). He moreover plays a central role in the international research on global economic history, as (former) president of the International Economic History Association, and as organizer of Clio Infra, a large research project aimed to reconstruct the long-term evolution of global inequality. A spin off of this project was the OECD report How was Life? Global Well-Being since 1820, published in 2014, in which a historical perspective is added to the \’GDP and beyond’ debate. Together with his Utrecht colleagues he set up the Centre for Global Economic History (http://www.cgeh.nl).

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