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Cities, States and Markets in the Making of the European Miracle (AD1000-1800): A Unified View

Final Report Summary - CSMMEURMIRACLE (Cities, States and Markets in the Making of the European Miracle (AD1000-1800): A Unified View.)

The overarching goal of this project, “Cities, States and Markets in the Making of the European Miracle”, is to collect a unique dataset of city-level information, containing quantitative data about the economic development of the cities of the Holy Roman Empire, in the period 1000-1800 AD. This dataset is supposed to capture a wide variety of indicators of development, ranging from dates of foundation, to the recording of major war and destruction events, to the construction of major new buildings (e.g. cathedrals, town halls) and infrastructure (e.g. bridges, walls). The novelty of this endeavor lies in the attempt to systematically collect all available qualitative evidence on the development of German cities – in a period before the creation of modern statistical bureaus – and turn it into quantitative data, ready to be analyzed.

In a second step, the data collected in the project can be brought to bear in a research agenda aimed at understanding the fundamental drivers of economic development in a historical perspective. The broader context is the attempt to try to understand the emergence of Europe, from a technological and social backwater relative to the Islamic world and East Asia around 1000 AD, to the leading economic region of the early modern and modern era. The research projects envisaged in the project proposal stressed, in particular, the need to understand the three related processes of economic expansion, state formation, and (inter)national governance that arguably had a causal role in explaining the dynamism of Europe in the past millennium.

The progress of this research has followed closely the proposed timeline. In particular, the two years were devoted in particular to the data collection effort, making substantial progress and leading to a first database of city-level economic indicators (foundation dates, market establishment dates, construction activities, war events and natural disasters). These data have been transcribed from comprehensive (secondary) sources, harmonized, categorized, and geocoded in several iterations by a large number of research assistants. The data collection effort has continued in the second part of the project (years 3 and 4), in particular tackling the complex task of following back each city’s timeline of sovereignty, i.e. establishing which territory or overlord it belonged to in the past 1000 years.

The second period of the project was, importantly, also devoted to the actual analysis of data and the drafting of first research papers tackling the key research questions about the economic and institutional determinants of the so-called “Rise of Europe”. These objectives have also been met. All of the research topics indicated have been investigated, two working papers have been already widely circulated, presented at seminars and conferences, and are at different stages of the publication process, whereas other three research projects are in earlier stages.

The final results of this project, thus, are closely matching the initial, ambitious objectives: providing a substantial new angle – both methodologically and conceptually – to the major question of understanding the deep determinants of economic development, in particular in the European context. I expect the pieces of research emerging from this project to be major contributions to the scientific state-of-the-art, and I am also confident that, by sharing the novel, high-quality data collected with the aid of the MC-CIG funds with other researchers, the impact of this project will be much wider than just through the papers written by the PI.