Saturday, June 18, 2011

The coolness of economic history

A fine piece on the recent doings of my friend Sheilagh Ogilvie, who is an economic historian at Cambridge. She and her co-authors are using property lists from two German towns to study consumption patterns - i.e. when do certain goods appear and how do they diffuse among the population - and economic growth more broadly.

And how can you not smile at the enthusiasm of this bit:
“We encountered our first coffee cup in an inventory of 1718,” said Professor Ogilvie. “After that we expected that a fashion for coffee and its associated equipment would take off, but instead there was no further mention until 1733. We have just found our third coffee cup in 1739. We know that they become common by the 1750s so we are on tenterhooks for the next couple of months while we work our way through the 1740s.”
Sheilagh came to Chicago to do an MA in economics during my early years in graduate school and was part of our little libertarian graduate student group at the time. We need to get her to Michigan for a seminar.

Aside: Wikipedia provides the story, in case you, like me, have no idea what a tenterhook might be.

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