© 2019

Histories of Global Inequality

New Perspectives

  • Christian Olaf Christiansen
  • Steven L. B. Jensen
  • Singles out some of the most pressing themes in historical research on global inequality today

  • Brings together fourteen essays from specialists across the history of inequality, of human rights, of decolonization and social movements, and of the contemporary history of global governance

  • Presents a broad range of geographical contexts using qualitative approaches, supporting existing data sets and statistical overviews


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Christian Olaf Christiansen, Steven L. B. Jensen
    Pages 1-32 Open Access
  3. Inequality in the History of Economic and Political Thought

  4. Inequality, Discrimination and Human Rights

  5. Inequality in an Age of Global Capitalism

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 327-335

About this book


This book argues that inequality is not just about numbers, but is also about lived, historical experience. It supplements economic research and offers a comprehensive stocktaking of existing thinking on global inequality and its historical development. The book is interdisciplinary, drawing upon regional and national perspectives from around the world while seeking to capture the multidimensionality and multi-causality of global inequalities. Grappling with what economics offers – as well as its blind spots – the study focuses on some of today’s most relevant and pressing themes: discrimination and human rights, defences and critiques of inequality in history, decolonization, international organizations, gender theory, the history of quantification of inequality and the history of economic thought. The historical case studies featured respond to the need for wider historical research and to calls to examine global inequality in a more holistic manner.

The Introduction 'Chapter 1 Histories of Global Inequality: Introduction' is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license via 


Defences and critiques of inequality Decolonization Rise of new elites Race, caste, gender Institutions, international organizations Discrimination Civil rights Environmental change Quantifying inequality Life expectancy Technology Wealth Rich-poor gap, disparity

Editors and affiliations

  • Christian Olaf Christiansen
    • 1
  • Steven L. B. Jensen
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Culture and SocietyUniversity of AarhusAarhusDenmark
  2. 2.The Danish Institute for Human RightsCopenhagenDenmark

About the editors

Christian Olaf Christiansen is Associate Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark. He is the author of Progressive Business: An Intellectual History of The Role of Business In American Society (2015). In 2018 he was awarded the Sapere Aude Research Leader Grant by the Danish Foundation for Independent Research, to work on the project ‘An Intellectual History of Global Inequality, 1960-2015’.  

Steven L. B. Jensen is Senior Researcher at the The Danish Institute for Human Rights, Denmark. He is author of the prize-winning book The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values (2016). Before joining the Danish Institute, he held positions with the UN and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Bibliographic information


“Thirteen papers offer a historical approach to global inequalities that supplements the existing economic research literature, focusing on themes such as decolonization, international organizations, gender theory, discrimination and human rights, the history of measurement of inequality, and the history of economic thought.” (Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 59 (2), June, 2021)