Professor Patrick O'Brien



 Research interests

Global economic history: world trade, technology and historiographical traditions

  1. Historiographical traditions in the construction of global economic history
  2. The evolution of intercontinental trade from Roman Empire to 1846
  3. Macro inventions and macro inventors in English cotton textiles from Kay to Cartwright
  4. The economics of European expansion overseas from the conquest of Ceuta to the Imperian Meridian
  5. The formation and efficiency of fiscal states in Europe and Asia 1500-1914

Current research project

  • Global History in the Long Run;
  • The political economy of British Public Finance, 1485-1914



Selected publications

  • 'War and Economic Development', in C. Holmes (ed) The Oxford Companion to Military History (forthcoming OUP 2000).
  • 'Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy 1688-1914', New Left Review, 238, 1999.
  • 'England 1485-1815' in R. Bonney (ed) The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe (OUP 1999).
  • 'Inseparable Connexions: Trade Economy, Fiscal State and the Expansion of Empire, 1688-1815' in P. Marshall (ed), Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 2 (OUP 1998).

Working Papers


Seminar and conference presentations 2002-2003


  • 5th January: American Historical Association, San Francisco. "The Great Divergence and the First Industrial Revolution"
  • 7th January: Economics Department, Standford California. "Necessary and Sufficent Conditions for Technological Progress in the English Cotton Textile Industry. From Kay to Cartwright"
  • 9th January: Economics Department, University of California (Los Angeles). "The Voyages of Discovery and the Industrialization of Western Europe"
  • 10th January: History Department, University of California. "The Great Divergence and the Industrial Revolution"
  • 31st January: Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, Imperial History Seminar. "The Costs and Benefits of Empires"
  • 27th February - 1st March: European Social Science History Association Conference at The Hague (with Professor Peer Vries (University of Leiden)). Convenor for six sessions in global history. Presented a paper on "British Exceptionalism" to the session on States and the Formation of Markets
  • 3rd - 4th May. Institute for Research on World Systems Conference at University of California (Rivershide). "The Pax Britannica, American Hegemony and the International Economic Order, 1846-1914 and 1941-2001"
  • 23rd - 25th May: Institute for International Studies Luxembourg Conference at Hanward to discuss Angus Maddison's book "The World Economy. A Millenium Perspective"
  • 27th - 30th May: Marshall Center for Strategic and International Studies Conference on International Security at Istanbul. "Why the West is Rich and the East is Poor?" (their title)
  • 31st May: With Professor Allen and Dr Darwin. Helped in the organisation of a one day conference at Nuffield College, Oxford, and gave the introductory lecture on the book by Ken Pomeranz "The Great Divergence"
  • 20th June: LSE, Third World History Group Workshop. "The Third World in the International Economy 1846-1914"
  • 20th - 28th July: XIII World Congress of Economic History. Organised a session on Fiscal States in Asia and Europe and presented the following papers: "The Economics of European Imperialism 1415-1815"; "The Pax Britannica 1846-1914"; "Labour Intensive Industrialisation"; "Britain as a Fiscal State 1688-1914" and "Regimes for the Production of Scientific Knowledge in Europe and the Chinese Empire from Copernicus to Newton"
  • 3rd - 6th September: University of Venice, Summer School. Lectures on Taxation, the National Debt and the Development of Financial Institutions in Britain in 1694-1815"
  • 28th - 30th September: European Chapter of World History Association Conference to found a European micro association of global historians. Lectured on "Global Economic History"
  • 30th October: Institute of Historical Research, 18th Century Seminar. "Reconfiguring the Industrial Revolution as the Conjuncture in Global History"
  • 10th - 12th October: National Historical Society of Japan, Centennial Conference at Tokio. "Renaissance in Global History"
  • 27th November: History Department, Free University of Brussels (with Kent Deng). "Historiographical Traditions and Recent Trends in the Construction of Global Economic History"


  • 3rd January: University of Oslo. "The British Industrial Revolution as an Example of Smithian Growth"