The New Economic History of South-East Europe: Illusion or Necessity?

Thursday, 30 January 2014, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library
The so-called “new economic history”, also known as Cliometrics, originated almost 60 years ago but is still largely terra incognita in South-East Europe (SEE). For the most part, qualitative narratives continue to dominate the political, social, and even economic histories of the region. The many local, as well as the few foreign, scholars engaged in the study of South-Eastern European history are still embarrassed to use quantitative techniques in their research. This, however, effectively excludes SEE from almost all significant cross-country and cross-regionals studies that, in the last decade or so, have changed our understanding of economic development since the Industrial Revolution.

Recent publications of data for almost all SEE countries make it evident that writing the “new economic history” of the Balkans is both possible and necessary. Collecting data and subjecting it to standard statistical analysis would indeed shed new light on the causes of long-lasting economic and social backwardness of the area. Moreover, it would allow us to be much more precise when tackling questions such as whether SEE ever modernized, and if it did, whether it has embarked on a sustainable developmental track. Quantitative data not only provide us with more precise tools to diagnose social and economic processes but also permit wide-ranging comparisons with other countries and regions.

Drawing on recent data publications on Bulgaria the speaker will try to demonstrate the advantages of a more quantitative approach, especially when combined with ‘conventional’ qualitative narratives.

Martin Ivanov is a Fellow at the Institute for History at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia.

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