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

  • S. B. Saul

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Nineteenth Century Foreign Trade Small Country Scale Economy Home Market 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    A. Maddison, Economic Growth in the West (New York, 1964) pp. 28–37.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. S. Milward and S. B. Saul, The Development of the Economies of Continental Europe, 1850–1914 (London, 1977) pp. 66–69.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    E. A. G. Robinson (ed.), The Economic Consequences of the Size of Nations (London, 1960) p. 28.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See generally B. Kádár, Small Countries in World Economy (Budapest, 1970).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The statistics were taken from the House of Commons Command Paper Statistical Abstract for Foreign Countries.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A. Wibail, ‘L’Evolution de la Siderurgie Belge de 1830 à 1913’, Bulletin de l’Institut des Sciences Economiques, (1933) Appendix IV.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Joel Mokyr, ‘Demand versus Supply in the Industrial Revolution’, Journal of Economic History, XXXVII (1977) p. 998.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., 996. For locomotives see A. S. Milward and S. B. Saul, The Economic Development of Continental Europe, 1780–1870 (London, 1973) p. 209 and S. B. Saul, ‘The Engineering Industries’ in D. Aldcroft, The Rise of British Industry and Foreign Competition (London, 1968) pp. 196–7.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See R. Vernon, The Technology Factor in International Trade (New York, 1970) pp. 179–181.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See D. S. Landes, ‘Watchmaking: A Case Study in Enterprise and Change’, Business History Review, LIII (1979) p. 34.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    C. Reuss, E. Koutry and L. Tychan, Le Progrès Economique en Siderurgie (Louvain, 1960) p. 58.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    L. Sandberg, ‘The Case of the Impoverished Sophisticate. Human Capital and Swedish Economic Growth before World War I’, Journal of Economic History, XXXIX (1979) pp. 225–241.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    F. X. Van Houtte, L’Evolution de l’Industrie Textile (Louvain, 1949) p. 171.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    J. A. de Jonge, De Industrialisatie in Nederland tussen 1850 en 1914 (The Hague, 1968) Table 9.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Milward and Saul, The Economic Development of Continental Europe, 1780–1870, (1973) P. 456.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    J. Kuuse, Interaction between Agriculture and Industry (Göteborg, 1974) pp. 180 and 191.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Milward and Saul, The Economic Development of Continental Europe, 1780–1870, (1973) P. 416.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See generally F. Hodne, ‘Growth in a Dual Economy’, Economy and History, XVI (1973) P. 99.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    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

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. B. Saul

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