Felix Salmon

Angus Maddison, RIP

By Felix Salmon
April 30, 2010

photo.jpgMy reference library is the internet. But I do have a few indispensible books on my shelves, and right next to the OED is Angus Maddison’s magisterial The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective. The product of a lifetime’s erudition and research, it might get updated over the coming few decades but I doubt it will be replaced for a very long time, if ever.

I just came across Maddison’s name yesterday, as I was reading Matt Ridley’s new book, and he dropped in the fact that China was the only country in the world to have lower GDP in 1950 than it had in 1000. That’s the kind of thing which no one knew, certainly not with any confidence, before Maddison came along.

Maddison died on April 24, I just found out. The Economist has an excellent obituary. But as far as the economic literature is concerned, he’s one of the immortals.

4 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I purchased his masterpiece last fall and it sits upon my work bookshelf. Excellent stuff. I have used it in a few reports.

Posted by david3 | Report as abusive

One reservation, though (and I say this because I’m a published ancient historian, as well as a classicist in general). While it was fun for Maddison to do everything he reasonably could to estimate “world GDP” from 1-1500 ad, that part serves basically as a flat line with comparatively small variations that then starts upwards from 1500 on, the grounds on which we estimate that flat line in and for itself being notoriously airy and weak, and the flat line when all is said and done mainly there to point up the last 500 years of growth. Thus the real “masterpiece” part seems to me to be early modern (1500) till now, where the guesswork part reduces itself to the manageable.

Posted by darms | Report as abusive

For some reason, the “shorter” dictionary reminds me of 1984.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

China – per capita GDP, not GDP (which had grown a lot due to population rises)

Posted by mjturner | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/