Professor Greg Clark

Professor Greg Clark

Visiting Professor

Department of Economic History

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Key Expertise
Demography, Long run economic growth

About me

My current research is focused on the interaction between demography and long run economic growth, and with the determinants of social position.  I am working currently on two book drafts around these issues. 

Before the Dawn: The Wealth of Medieval Europe 

There are two competing narratives of pre-industrial Europe.  The first, based on day wages, suggests that for much of the period 1200-1800 Europe was richer than on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.  The breakthrough to growth cannot be explained by a rise in living standards.  The second argues that northern Europe saw sustained growth in the years 1200-1800, and this growth was the cause of the Industrial Revolution.  However, this second narrative, to account for the conflicting wage evidence, has had to postulate a substantial Industrious Revolution, where average work hours per worker more than doubled 1200-1800, from 150 to more than 300 days per year.

This book argues, using a large variety of evidence, that the Industrious Revolution is a fiction, and that consequently Europe pre 1800 was always wealthy.  The book brings together material in 5 papers I have already written or published on this topic.  But it will also explore new sources of evidence for England and elsewhere, such as the quality of housing pre 1800, occupational structure, and heights and other skeletal evidence of living standards.  It will further consider the situation elsewhere in Europe – Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: Genetics, Demography and Social Outcomes

This book will argue, based on a large genealogical database, that genetics was the major determinant of social and economic outcomes for individuals in England all through the interval 1200-2018 (see Families of England ).  The pattern of inheritance of social characteristics is not consistent with transmission of social abilities through human capital, culture, through family networks.  This explains why the rise of mass education 1870 and later, and the arrival of the welfare state post WWII both had no measurable effects on rates of social mobility.  A high degree of assortative mating through history also can explain why long run social mobility rates were so slow. 

The importance of genetic transmission means that in English history both selective migration, and class differences in reproductive success will have significant effects on the distribution and level of economic abilities in England.

Select Publications

“Randomness in the Bedroom: There is no Evidence for Fertility Control in Pre-Industrial England.”  Demography, forthcoming. (with Neil Cummins) 

“Welfare reform, 1834: Did the New Poor Law in England produce significant economic gains?” Cliometrica, forthcoming. (with Marianne E Page) 

"Growth or Stagnation?  Farming in England 1200-1800.” Economic History Review, 71(1) (2018): 55-81.

“Intergenerational Wealth Mobility in England, 1858-2012. Surnames and Social Mobility.”  Economic Journal, 125(582) (2015): 61-85 (with Neil Cummins)

The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.  Princeton University Press, 2014.  (with Neil Cummins, Yu Hao, Daniel Diaz Vidal, et al.) 

A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.  Princeton University Press, 2007.

Read Professor Clark's Curriculum Vitae: Professor Greg Clark Curriculum Vitae 

Expertise Details

Demography; Long run economic growth