The Economic History Review

Uneven centuries: Turkey’s experience with economic development since 1820

Volume 72 Issue 4
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Pages: 1129-1151Authors: Şevket Pamuk
Published online: October 9, 2019DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12938

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Abstract This article examines the economic development of Turkey from a comparative global perspective. With the help of GDP per capita and other series, it shows that Turkey’s record in economic growth and human development since 1820 has been close to world averages and a little above developing country averages. The early focus of the article is on the proximate causes–average rates of investment, below-average rates of schooling, low rates of total productivity growth, and low technology content of production–which provide important insights into why GDP per capita increases were not any higher. For the deeper causes, the article emphasizes the role of institutions and institutional change. Turkey’s formal economic institutions had been influenced by international rules since the nineteenth century, and these rules did not always support economic development. Turkey’s elites also made extensive changes in formal political and economic institutions. Formal institutions were only part of the story, however. The direction of institutional change also depended on the political order and the degree of understanding between different groups and their elites. When the political system could not manage the recurring tensions and cleavages between the different elites, economic outcomes suffered.