The Economic Development of Small Nations: the Experience of North West Europe in the Nineteenth Century

  • S. B. Saul


The peculiar problems of small countries are the subject of much discussion in the literature on current developmental experience but have not been much analysed in a historical context. Yet the question of how such countries responded to the challenges offered by the industrial revolution in Europe raises many interesting issues. In this paper I have tried to put forward some general ideas that may form the basis of future research, looking at the development of a group of such countries in North West Europe–Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland. ‘Small’ is here defined in terms of population. In 1910/11 there were 7.4 m people in Belgium, 5.9 m in the Netherlands, 5.5 m in Sweden, 3.8 m in Switzerland, 2.8 m in Denmark and 2.4 m in Norway. The rate of growth of output per head (1870–1914) ranged from 2.3 per cent per annum for Sweden and 2.1 per cent for Denmark, the highest rates in western Europe, to 1.3 per cent for Switzerland and 1.4 per cent for Norway, among the lowest.1 Growth in Belgium averaged 1.7 per cent but this kind of rate was experienced there for some three decades before 1870, considerably longer than in the other countries under discussion.


Nineteenth Century Foreign Trade Small Country Scale Economy Home Market 
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    I am grateful to Charles P. Kindleberger for some of the ideas in the last paragraph and indeed for his kind help and encouragement in general both for the article and in many other respects over the years.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles P. Kindleberger and Guido di Tella 1982

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  • S. B. Saul

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