Reflections on the Economic History Society’s Inaugural PhD Thesis Workshop

September 17, 2021 | Blog
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by Tehreem Hussain (University College London)

This workshop was supported by the Economic History Society.

Tehreem Husain
Tehreem Husain

The Economic History Society (EHS) conducted the Inaugural PhD Thesis Workshop held online between the 28th and 29th June.  Organised by the EHS Graduate Student Trustees, Ben Schneider and Jess Ayes, 12 doctoral researchers presented on a wide variety of topics encompassing  various geographies, time periods and disciplines within the larger domain of economic history. This review provides my personal reflections on some of the key themes discussed in the workshop.

The workshop was structured so that three papers were presented in each of the two daily sessions.  Papers were circulated amongst the participants prior to the workshop to ensure that participants had read the papers and could actively engage in giving feedback.  Papers presented in the first session could broadly be categorised under the impact of geography on economic outcomes.  This  session began  with a paper  by Juliana Jaramillo discussing the effects of geography and education on fertility behaviour using the case of Columbia.  Juliana studied the interesting case of fertility decline in the country from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Using the census of 1973, Juliana provided a detailed empirical perspective on the rapid decline of fertility in Colombia.  Next, in a paper on English deindustrialisation between 1971 and 1991,  James Evans  argued that deindustrialisation did not fall evenly, with some areas experiencing a relatively smoother transition to post-industrialism.  In the final paper of this session, Tehreem Husain examined  the long-run relationship between returns on railway and government securities during the first era of globalisation (1870-1913).  Her research indicates that investors carefully considering correlation, co-movement, and diversification, when constructing their portfolios.

Papers presented in the second session were broadly concerned  with the impact of state policies on economic outcomes.  Magnus Neubert started the session by  discussing the imperial origins of regional inequality in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  His research contributes to the debate on the consequences of early national independence for Balkan  economic development.  Next, Gianni Marciante assessed draft evasion, government repression, and the origins of the Sicilian Mafia, and  showed that the emergence of the mafia in the nineteenth century was  partly caused by the strong discontent with the government during Italian unification.  This session concluded  with Vinicios Poloni Sant’Anna’s  paper which examined  how the repatriation of Mexican from the US between 1930 and 1936,  affected housing and construction in American cities. Vinicios’s research indicated that cities experiencing  higher Mexican outflows suffered lower growth in commercial and residential real estate.

On the second day, the first session  began with Dheeraj Chaudhary’s analysis of  railroads, market access,  and wealth inequality in the US during the nineteenth century.  Chaudhary’s  results indicate that a decline in trade costs facilitated by the spread of the railroad network increased wealth inequality in the USA.  Peiyuan Li’s paper on political repression, media propaganda, and nation building, examined the interaction between anti-Manchu propaganda and historical repression and resistance, and demonstrated how propaganda which employed repression and resistance shaped the political identity of modern China.  The final paper in this session was presented by José Antonio García-Barrero, who  attempted to explain why people from certain southern Spanish regions were more likely to migrate to internal destinations based on seasonal labour demand —  to the detriment of European countries or Spanish industrial hubs.

The final session of the workshop was largely devoted to the impact of state policies on structural change.  Pablo Fernández Cebrián used a case study of  the provision of primary schooling in Mozambique under indigenato, to  consider why the Portuguese colonial state withdrew from the direct running of schools for the black population and, instead, substituted Catholic missions.   Next, Andrea Ramazzotti discussed wage bargaining and the consequences of structural egalitarianism in Italy after 1969.  Andrea argues that by altering the relative costs of job tasks, wage setting institutions influenced firms’ decisions to adopt skill-intensive production processes.  The last paper of the workshop was presented by Robert Yee on the response of UK and German central banks to the interwar liquidity question.

The Inaugural Thesis Workshop was a fantastic event showcasing the research of twelve PhD students on a variety of topics within the wider discipline of economic history.  This diversity added richness to the debates and produced lively exchanges. Such events not only provide opportunities for PhD students and doctoral candidates to develop their research and peer reviewing skills, but also gives them a chance to build horizontal networks with fellow early career scholars.


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