World Economic History Congress - Panel "Experience and Expectation in the Age of Globalization"

The XVIII World Economic History Congress took place from 29 July to 3 August at MIT, Boston/Mass. The panel “Experience and Expectation in the Age of Globalization”, organized by the Priority Programme 1859, allowed us to present some of the results from the individual projects as well as foster international visibility and collaboration by bringing together both internal and external researchers. The panel summary can be found here:


Labour, Migration and Demography

Discussant: Sebastian Schoettler (Humboldt University Berlin)

Francesca Fauri (University of Bologna) showed how Italian migrants and the Italian government coped with shocks to existing migration patterns. Using two case studies, Argentina in 1890 and the United States in 1917, she analysed how the experience of these shocks resulted in anticipation of and adjustment to future shocks in order to mitigate migration risks for Italian citizens. The 1890 financial crisis in Argentina led to the passing of migrant protection laws in Italy as well as a re-direction of migration flows to the United States. Furthermore, the Italian government fostered schooling after 1904, anticipating a future anti-migration literacy bill in the United States.

Bruno Gabriel Witzel de Souza (University of Göttingen) integrated a perspective from the country of destination: In his paper, he focussed on Brazilian coffee planters and shifting contract labour regimes between 1830 and 1890. Witzel emphasized the role of credit-labour-interlinkage between planters and migrant workers, which has been independent from a certain labour regime and prevented institutional change as it allowed for a continuous stream of migrant workers. Challenging existing theories on a linear transition from slavery to free labour in 19th century Brazil, he rejected the assumption that sharecropping was the least efficient type of contract and, thus, argued in favour of a more nuanced historical narrative.

Jochen Streb (University of Mannheim) analysed the demographic impact of Bismarck´s social insurance system in Prussia between 1875 and 1910. Starting with the question how workers´ long-run expectations had changed due to social insurance payments and controlling for the three pillars (health, accident, and pension insurance) of social insurance, Streb argued that their introduction had a negative overall impact on fertility. Even though health and accident insurance indirectly promoted marriage by stabilizing income. Surprisingly, the pension insurance had a relatively strong (negative) impact, given the low payments at that time.   


Corporations and Investors

Discussant: Jeffrey Fear (University of Glasgow)

Louis Pahlow* (University of Frankfurt) and Michael Schneider* (University of Dusseldorf) posed the question how firms reacted to shifting legislation regarding intellectual property rights. Following the debates about the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property after 1883, Pahlow and Schneider showed that by the time of the interwar period, the existing legislation provided firms with enough flexibility to deal with disputes over IP. Using E. Merck as a case study, they furthermore argued that firms had no expectations to change the legal framework, but acted according to the Paris Convention in the interwar period.  

In their paper, Andreas Neumayer* (University of Hohenheim) and Sibylle Lehmann-Hasemeyer (University of Hohenheim) posed the question whether decisions for local investments increased in times of economic and political turmoil. Based on the portfolio of the banker Joseph Frisch, they built a database of 6000 documented transactions between 1923 and 1955. As Neumayer pointed out, the home bias of Frisch´s decreased over time, being lowest after 1945 in a recovering economic development.


State, Politics and Regulation

Discussant: Eric Vanhaute (Ghent University)

In the first presentation of the third group, Sebastian Horn* (University of Munich) presented preliminary results from joint work with Carmen Reinhart (Harvard Kennedy School) and Christoph Trebesch (Kiel Institute for the World Economy). Covering the period between 1800 and 2015, their database allows to analyse how the role of sovereign lending has changed over time. Using international treaties and budget reports as sources, the database covers bi- and multilateral lending of countries, international and regional financial institutions. Their results show that sovereign lending played a significant role long before Bretton Woods, and increased during wars, natural disasters and economic crises. Furthermore, while bilateral bailouts occurred on a large scale before the post-WWII-period, they became more systematic with the rise of international institutions such as the IMF.

Challenging existing explanations for the rise in vote shares for the Nazi Party, Gregori Galofré-Vilà* (Bocconi University)/ Christopher M. Meissner (University of California/Davis)/ Martin McKee (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)/ David Stuckler (University of Bocconi) evaluated the impact of austerity measures on election results in Germany between 1930 and 1933. Using city- and district-level data, they concluded that measures such as spending cuts and tax increases were positively correlated with vote shares for the Nazi Party.

Finally, Amos Nadan (Tel Aviv University) compared two cases of national rebellion in Palestine, the Arab Revolt 1936-1939 and the Intifada 1987-1993. He explored the role of economic expectations in both uprisings, arguing that especially young people´s expectations might have contributed to them. By integrating his findings in existing historical accounts, Nadan made a case for including socio-economic aspects in a so-far more nationalistic-oriented perspective.

We would like to thank all presenters for their fascinating talks, all discussants for their comments and all guests for their contributions to a lively discussion.