Welfare and Economic Growth in Early Modern China, 17-20th centuries: Exploring Approaches to Account for the Origins of the Great Divergence

Associate Professor Stephen L. Morgan

  17.Mar.2010 17.00 - 18.30
  The Conference Room, Humanities Research Institute - Sheffield


Early modern globalisation from the 16th century fuelled extensive economic growth in China, yet analysis of the impact on the standard of living and the character of that growth are hindered by fragmentary data. Finding new data and new approaches to researching Chinese economic development before the mid-20th century has hindered progress. This seminar will discuss approaches and the constraints drawing on recent research advances employing new data sources that my collaborators and I have been using. Among the sources to be discussed are neglected anthropometric and economic data in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) archives. These will allow us to construct time series for the height of men and women, which will show trends in the “biological standard of living”, and series for factor prices (wages, rents and land). When combined in panel analysis, such an approach will permit for the first time the quantification and testing of arguments about the standard of living, the development of different Chinese regions, and the impact of globalisation on these processes that are central to China’s position in the Great Divergence debate, the controversy over when and why Europe pulled ahead economically from the rest of the world.

Recent articles related to the seminar

J. Baten, D. Ma, S. Morgan and Q. Wang, “Evolution of Living Standards and Human Capital in China in the 18-20th Centuries: Real Wages, Anthropometrics and Age Heaping”, Explorations in Economic History, 2010, forthcoming. doi:10.1016/j.eeh.2009.09.003

S. L. Morgan, “Stature and Economic Development in South China during the Nineteenth Century”, Explorations in Economic History 46 (1), 2009, pp. 53-69. doi:10.1016/j.eeh.2008.03.001

S. Morgan and S. Liu, “Was Japanese Colonialism Good for the Welfare of the Taiwanese? Stature and the Standard of Living”, The China Quarterly, 192, 2007, pp. 990-1017. 

Stephen L. Morgan, “Economic Growth and the Biological Standard of Living in China, 1880-1930”, Economics and Human Biology, 2 (2) 2004, pp. 197-218.


Stephen Morgan (PhD, ANU; MA, HKU; BA, Monash) is Associate Professor and Research Director at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research focus is the economic and business history of China, originally focused on early 20th century China, but increasing moving backward to the early/mid-Qing. In addition he has long taught (and researched to more limited extent) in the fields of international business, strategic management and Asian economic development. Before joining Nottingham, he was Senior Lecturer in Asian Economic History in the Department of Management at the University of Melbourne, and in an earlier career he was a journalist in Australia and Asia. Dr Morgan is also the joint editor of the Australian Economic History Review, a journal of Asia-Pacific economic, business and social history, which is one of only four ISI-listed economic history journals. He has published in Business History, China Journal, China Quarterly, Explorations in Economic History, and World Economy, among other journals.

All welcome!