Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy

Tim Harford

Links

Book Outline

1. The Plow

  • Lewis Dartnell - The Knowledge: How to rebuild our world after an apocalypse, London: Vintage, 2015
  • James Burke - Connections, London: Macmillan, 1978, also a BBC documentary
  • James Burke - The Economy if Cities, New York: Vintage, 1970
  • Ian Morris - Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels, Oxford: Princeton University, 2015
  • Branko Milanovic, Peter H. Lindert, Jeffrey G. Williamson - _‘Measuring Ancient Inequality’ ,_NBER Working Paper No. 13550, October 2007
  • Lynn White - Medieval Technology and Social Change, Oxford University Press, 1962
  • TB Andersen; PS Jensen; C Skovsgaard - ‘The Heavy Plow and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe’, Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 118, No. 1, 2016
  • Jared Diamond - ‘The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race’, Discover Magazine, May 1987

I. Winners and Losers

2. The Gramophone

3. Barbed Wire

4. Seller Feedback

6. Passports

7. Robots

8. The Welfare State

II. Reinventing How We Live

9. Infant Formula

10. TV Dinners

  • Alison Wolf - The XX Factor, p80-85
  • Valerie Ramey - “Time spent in home production in the 20th century” NBER Paper 13985 (2008)
  • Valerie Ramey - “A century of work and leisure” NBER Paper 12264 (2006)
  • Cutler, David, Edward Glaeser and Jesse Shapiro - “Why have Americans become more obese?” Journal of Economic Perspectives (2003) 17, no. 3: 93-118 doi:10.1257/089533003769204371
  • USDA
  • Matt Philips - “No One Cooks Any More” Quartz 14 June 2016

11. The Pill

12. Video Games

13. Market Research

14. Air-Conditioning

15. Department Stores

III. Inventing New Systems

16. The Dynamo

  • Robert M. Solow - ‘We’d better watch out’ New York Times Book Review, 12 July 1987
  • Robert Gordon - _The Rise and Fall of American Growth _(Oxford: Princeton University Press) 2016 p546-7
  • Paul A. David - _The Computer and the dynamo: An historical perspective _American Economic Review, May 1990
  • Paul A. David and Mark Thomas - _The economic future in historical perspective _OUP/British Academy, February 2006
  • Erik Brynjolfsoon and Lorin M. Hitt - Beyond Computation: Information technology, organizational transformation and business performance Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2000

17. The Shipping Container

18. The Bar Code

19. The Cold Chain

20. Tradable Debt and the Tally Stick

21. The Billy Bookcase

22. The Elevator

  • David Owen - “Green Manhattan” The New Yorker 18 October 2004
  • Richard Florida - “The World Is Spiky” The Atlantic Monthly October 2005
  • Nick Paumgarten - “Up and Then Down” The New Yorker 21 April
  • Kheir Al-Kodmany - “Tall Buildings and Elevators: A Review of Recent Technological Advances” Buildings 2015, 5, 1070-1104
  • Burj Khalifa - The Skyscraper Center
  • Willis Tower - The Skyscraper Center

IV. Ideas About Ideas

23. Cuneiform

  • Felix Martin - Money: The Unauthorised Biography London: Bodley Head (2013) pp39-42
  • William N. Goetzmann - Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible Woodstock: Princeton University Press (2016) pp19-30
  • Jane Gleeson-White - Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance (London: Allen & Unwin) 2012 pp11-12

24. Public-Key Cryptography

25. Double-Entry Bookkeeping

  • Jane Gleeson-White - Double Entry: How the merchants of Venice created modern finance, London, Allen and Unwin
  • Alfred W. Crosby - The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western society, 1250 - 1600 Cambridge University Press, 1996
  • Omar Abdulla Zaid - ‘Accounting systems and recording procedures in the early Islamic state’ Accounting Historians Journal, December 2004
  • Iris Origo - The Merchant of Prato: Daily life in a medieval Italian city, Penguin Classics, 2017
  • Michael J. Fisher - ‘Luca Pacioli on business profits’ Journal of Business Ethics 25, 2000
  • Chaucer - The Shipman’s Tale

26. Limited Liability Companies

27. Management Consulting

28. Intellectual Property

29. The Compiler

  1. Kurt W. Beyer, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009).
  2. Lynn Gilbert with Gaylen Moore, Particular Passions: Grace Murray Hopper (Women of Wisdom series, Lynn Gilbert, 2012). Hopper earned her master’s and doctorate at Yale; the university recently renamed a residential college after her.
  3. Beyer, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age.
  4. Gilbert and Moore, Particular Passions.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Beyer, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age
  7. Ibid.

V. Where Do Inventions Come From?

30. The iPhone

31. Diesel Engine

32. Clocks

33. Chemical Fertilizer

34. Radar

35. Batteries

36. Plastic

VI. The Visible Hand

37. The Bank

  • William Goetzmann - Money Changes Everything
  • Fernand Braudel - Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: The structure of everyday life (University of California Press 1992 p 471)
  • Marie-Thérèse Boyer-Xambeu, Ghislain Deleplace, Lucien Gillard, M.E. Sharpe - Private Money & Public Currencies: The 16th Century Challenge (Routledge 1994)

38. Razors and Blades

39. Tax Havens

40. Leaded Gasoline

41. Antibiotics in Farming

  • Philip Lymbery and Isabel Oakeshott - Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat, Bloomsbury, 2014, pp306-307
  • Antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment: Reducing unnecessary use and waste. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2015
  • Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2014
  • Antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment: Reducing unnecessary use and waste. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2015
  • Alexander Fleming

42. M-Pesa

43. Property Registers

VII. Inventing the Wheel

44. Paper

45. Index Funds

46. The S-Bend

47. Paper Money

  • William N. Goetzmann - Money Changes Everything: How Finance made Civilisation Possible, Princeton, Chapter 9
  • William N. Goetzmann and K. Geert Rouwenhorst - The Origins of Value, Oxford University Press 2005

48. Concrete

49. Insurance

Conclusion: Looking Forward

50. Epilogue: The Lightbulb

  • William D. Nordhaus - “Do real-output and real-wage measures capture reality? The history of lighting suggests not.” The economics of new goods (University of Chicago Press 1996. 27-70)
  • For other accounts of Nordhaus’s calculations see Tim Harford -The Logic of Life (London: Little Brown 2008), Steven Johnson - How We Got To Now (New York: Riverhead 2014) and David Kestenbaum - “The History of Light, in 6 Minutes and 47 Seconds” NPR: All Things Considered May 2 2014
  • Marshall B. Davidson - “Early American Lighting” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer 1944), pp. 30-40
  • Steven Johnson - How We Got To Now p165 and Marshall B Davidson ibid
  • Jane Brox - Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light London (Souvenir Press 2011)
  • Robert J. Gordon - The Rise and Fall of American Growth (Chapter 4)