Development Centre Studies

OECD Development Centre

1990-0295 (online)
1563-4302 (print)
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This series of monographs from the OECD Development Centre covers development issues generally and in some cases issues in specific countries. It  includes Angus Maddison’s books containing long-term historical estimates of GDP for various areas of the world.

Also available in French, Spanish
The World Economy

The World Economy

Volume 1: A Millennial Perspective and Volume 2: Historical Statistics You do not have access to this content

OECD Development Centre

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Angus Maddison
18 Sep 2006
9789264022621 (PDF) ;9789264022614(print)

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The World Economy brings together two reference works by Angus Maddison: The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, first published in 2001 and The World Economy: Historical Statistics, published in 2003. This new edition contains Statlinks, a service providing access to the underlying data in Excel® format.  These two volumes bring together estimates of world GDP for the past 2000 years and provide a unique perspective on the rise and fall of economies historically.

"One controversial clash of theories fueled by Maddison's data concerns the relative status of (growth in) the West versus the rest. The figures (in this book) are enriching economists' understanding of what make economies grow, and may even make it possible to reject some of the most prominent historical explanations." Diane Coyle, author of The Soulful Science, former economics editor of The Independent newspaper.


"A tour de force. What a wonderful gift for the new century." Robert Mundell, Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Economics, Columbia University.

"An essential reference for anyone interested in global development for many years to come." Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics, Princeton University.

"Quite simply a dazzling essay." Nicholas Eberstadt, American Enterprise Institute.

"Highly recommended . . . refreshing and full of historical information. An important book." Kisanhani F. Emizet, Kanzas University, writing in International Politics.

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  • Introduction and Summary
    Over the past millennium, world population rose 22–fold. Per capita income increased 13–fold, world GDP nearly 300–fold. This contrasts sharply with the preceding millennium, when world population grew by only a sixth, and there was no advance in per capita income. From the year 1000 to 1820 the advance in per capita income was a slow crawl — the world average rose about 50 per cent. Most of the growth went to accommodate a fourfold increase in population...
  • The Contours of World Development
    World economic performance was very much better in the second millennium of our era than in the first. Between 1000 and 1998 population rose 22–fold and per capita income 13–fold. In the previous millennium, population rose by a sixth and per capita GDP fell slightly. The second millennium comprised two distinct epochs. From 1000 to 1820 the upward movement in per capita income was a slow crawl — for the world as a whole the rise was about 50 per cent. Growth was largely "extensive" in character. Most of it went to accommodate a fourfold increase in population. Since 1820, world development has been much more dynamic, and more "intensive". Per capita income rose faster than population; by 1998 it was 8.5 times as high as in 1820; population rose 5.6–fold...
  • The Impact of Western Development on the Rest of the World, 1000–1950
    A major feature of world development which emerges from our macro–statistical evidence is the exceptionalism of Western Europe’s long–run economic performance. By the year 1000, its income levels had fallen below those in Asia and North Africa. In its lengthy resurrection, it caught up with China (the world leader) in the fourteenth century. By 1820, its levels of income and productivity were more than twice as high as in the rest of the world. By 1913 , the income level in Western Europe and its Western Offshoots was more than six times that in the rest of the world...
  • The World Economy in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century
    The world economy performed better in the last half century than at any time in the past. World GDP increased six–fold from 1950 to 1998 with an average growth of 3.9 per cent a year compared with 1.6 from 1820 to 1950, and 0.3 per cent from 1500 to 1820...
  • Appendix A
    This Appendix provides a quantitative picture of the world economy for the period 1820–1998. It presents estimates of population, GDP and GDP per capita for seven benchmark years and their rates of growth in five phases of development 1820–70, 1870–1913, 1913–1950, 1950–73, and 1973–98...
  • Appendix B
    Maddison (1995a) contained a rough aggregate estimate of world population, GDP and per capita GDP back to 1500 to provide perspective for the detailed analysis of developments after 1820. The main purpose of the brief look backwards was to emphasise the dramatic acceleration of growth in the succeeding capitalist epoch. Maddison (1998a) provided a confrontation of Chinese and Western economic performance over a longer period of two millennia. This demonstrated important differences in the pace and pattern of change in major parts of the world economy, which have roots deep into the past...
  • Appendix C
    This appendix contains annual estimates of population; and levels of GDP and GDP per capita in 1990 international dollars for 1950–98. Annual estimates are given for 124 individual countries, as well as regional, subregional, and world totals. The sources are given in Appendix A...
  • Appendix D
  • Appendix E
  • Appendix F
  • Prologue
    National accounts are an indispensable tool for assessing the growth potential and performance of contemporary economies. They are fundamental in international comparison of development levels. They have become an important tool of analysis for quantitative economic historians. They are sometimes considered too "modern" to be applicable to the distant past. In fact, national accounting, international income comparisons, and historical demography originated in the seventeenth century, when "the art of reasoning by figures on things relating to government" was called Political Arithmetick.
  • Western Europe, 1500–2001
    Population 1500-1700 and GDP growth rates 1500-1820 (except for France) from Appendix B of Maddison (2001), The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective; 1820 onwards as described below. POPULATION: Sources for the annual estimates, 1820–1950, are described in the country notes below. 1950 onwards from International Programs Center, US Bureau of the Census, October 2002...
  • Western Offshoots Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States
    These four countries have experienced much more rapid growth since 1820 than Western Europe or the rest of the world. Between 1820 and 2001 their combined population increased 35–fold, compared with less than 3–fold in Western Europe. Their GDP increased 679–fold compared with 47–fold in Western Europe. Average per capita GDP (in terms of 1990 international dollars) rose from $1 202 to $26 943; Western Europe’s from $1 204 to $19 256...
  • A. Eastern Europe and Former USSR
    Until 1990, there were 8 countries in this group, 5 still have the same frontiers, but 22 successor states have emerged, 2 from Czechoslovakia, 5 from Yugoslavia, and 15 from USSR. The tables show GDP, population and per capita GDP for the 8 countries, 1820–2001 within their 1989 frontiers and 1990–2001 for the 22 successor states within their new boundaries. The former DDR (German Democratic Republic) lasted from 1946 to 1990, when it was absorbed into the Federal Republic. As the estimates for Germany in HS–1 include the area of the former DDR, it is not shown here (see Maddison, 1995, p.132 for East German population and GDP, 1936–1993)....
  • Latin America
    At the end of the fifteenth century, at the time of Spanish conquest, the Americas were thinly settled. The population was a third of that in Western Europe and the land area eleven times as large. The technological level was greatly inferior. There were no wheeled vehicles or draught animals, no metal tools, weapons or ploughs. There were no cattle, sheep, pigs or hens. The most densely populated areas (Mexico and Peru) had significant urban centres and a sophisticated vegetarian agriculture. Elsewhere, most of the inhabitants were hunter–gatherers...
  • Asia
    Estimates for Asia are shown in three groups. The first consists of 16 East Asian countries which produced 88 per cent of Asian GDP and had 89 per cent of Asian population in 2001. For these countries the GDP estimates are well documented and of reasonable quality for 1950 onwards and scholars have been active in developing historical accounts for earlier years. There have been major problems for China where official estimates of GDP exaggerate growth and understate its level. Maddison (1998), Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run, OECD, Paris, provides a detailed examination of these problems and makes adjustments to provide a close approximation to Western SNA accounting practice. Chinese official statisticians adopted SNA norms several years ago. Misstatement is not deliberate, but is a transitional problem in moving away from a detailed reporting practice inherited from the long period in which the norms of the Soviet material product system (MPS) prevailed...
  • Africa
    As the long–term economic development of Africa is difficult to quantify with any precision, it is useful to consider the broad contours and salient features I had in mind when making conjectures about the development of per capita income. There is a marked difference between the historical experience of the lands North of the Sahara and the rest of the continent. For most of the past two millennia, there were higher levels of income and urbanisation, more sophisticated economic and political institutions in the North than in the South. North African history is reasonably well documented because there are substantial written records. Knowledge of the South is based on archaeological or linguistic evidence until the ninth century when written evidence of northern visitors becomes available...
  • The World Economy, 1950–2001
    Tables 7a–7c show annual estimates of economic activity in 7 regions and the world for the year 1900, and annually 1950–2001. They aggregate the detailed estimates by country in HS–1 to HS–6 and there are analytical tables showing percentage year–to–year movement in real terms. Three basic ingredients are necessary for these estimates. These are time series on population which we have for 221 countries, time series showing the volume movement in GDP in constant national prices for 179 countries, and purchasing power converters for 99.3 per cent of world GDP in our benchmark year 1990. With these converters we can transform the GDP volume measures into comparable estimates of GDP level across countries for every year between 1950 and 2001. For countries where all three types of measure are available, the estimates of per capita GDP level are derivative. However, to arrive at a comprehensive world total, we need proxy measures of GDP movement for 42 countries, and proxy per capita GDP levels for 48 countries for the year 1990. These proxies collectively represent less than 1 per cent of world output...
  • The World Economy, 1–2001 AD
    Tables HS–8 show levels of population, GDP and per capita GDP in 20 countries, 7 regions and the world for eight benchmark years in the past two millennia. There are also 5 analytical tables showing rates of growth and shares of world population and GDP. HS–7 explained the derivation of estimates for 1950–2001. Earlier than this, it is useful to distinguish between estimates for 1820–1950 and those for the centuries before 1820 where the documentation is weaker and the element of conjecture bigger...
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