Cliometrics, sometimes called new economic history,[1] or econometric history,[2] is the systematic application of economic theory, econometric techniques, and other formal or mathematical methods to the study of history (especially, social and economic history). It is a quantitative (as opposed to qualitative or ethnographic) approach to economic history.[3] The term cliometrics comes from Clio, who was the muse of history, and was originally coined by the mathematical economist Stanley Reiter in 1960.[4]

Clio by Pierre Mignard, oil on canvas, 1689


History of discipline

The new economic history originated in 1958 with the work of Alfred Conrad and John R. Meyer with the publication of "The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South," in the Journal of Political Economy.[3] The new economic history revolution actually began in the mid-1960s and was resisted because many incumbent economic historians were either historians or economists who had very little connection to economic modeling or statistical techniques.[5] Areas of key interest included transportation history,[6] slavery,[3] and agriculture.[citation needed] Cliometrics become better known when Douglass North and William Parker became the editors of the Journal of Economic History in 1960. The Cliometrics Meetings began to be held around this time at Purdue University and are still held annually in different locations. Today, cliometric approaches are standard in several journals, including the Journal of Economic History, Explorations in Economic History, the European Review of Economic History, and Cliometrica.

According to economist Claudia Goldin, the success of the cliometric revolution had as an unintended consequence the disappearance of economic historians from history departments. As economic historians started using the same tools as economists, they started to seem more like other economists. In Goldin's words, "the new economic historians extinguished the other side".[7] The other side nearly disappeared altogether, with only a few remaining in history departments and business schools. However, some new economic historians did, in fact, begin research around this time, among them were Kemmerer and Larry Neal (a student of Albert Fishlow, a leader of the cliometric revolution) from Illinois, Paul Uselding from Johns Hopkins, Jeremy Atack from Indiana, and Thomas Ulen from Stanford.[citation needed] In spite of this, the separation of economic history and economics continued until the 1970s.[citation needed]

A group to encourage and further the study of cliometrics, The Cliometric Society, was founded in 1983.

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics

In October 1993, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to Robert William Fogel and Douglass Cecil North "for having renewed research in economic history." The Academy noted that "they were pioneers in the branch of economic history that has been called the 'new economic history,' or cliometrics."[8] Fogel and North received the prize for turning the theoretical and statistical tools of modern economics on the historical past: on subjects ranging from slavery and railroads to ocean shipping and property rights.

Fogel is often described as the father of modern econometric history.[8] He's especially noted for using careful empirical work to overturn conventional wisdom. North, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, was honored as a pioneer in the "new" institutional history. In the Nobel announcement,[8] specific mention was made of a 1968 paper on ocean shipping, in which North showed that organizational changes played a greater role in increasing productivity than did technical change.[9]


Cliodynamics is a new multidisciplinary area of research focused at mathematical modeling of historical dynamics. It investigates dynamic processes in history, and is led by Peter Turchin and Andrey Korotayev. The term was originally coined by Peter Turchin in 2003.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Fogel, Robert (December 1966). "The New Economic History. Its Findings and Methods". Economic History Society. Retrieved 5 May 2010. "The 'new economic history', sometimes called economic history or cliometrics, is not often practiced in Europe. However, it is fair to say that efforts to apply statistical and mathematical models currently occupy the centre of the stage in American economic history." 
  2. ^ Woodman, Harold (1972). "Economic History and Economic Theory: The New Economic History in America". The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the editors of The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Retrieved 5 May 2010. "Among the most recent of the changes in emphasis-today's new history-is the rise of the "new economic history" or, as it is variously called, econometric history or cliometric." 
  3. ^ a b c Edward L. Glaeser, "Remembering the Father of Transportation Economics", The New York Times (Economix), October 27, 2009.
  4. ^ Goldin, Claudia (Spring 1995). "Cliometrics and the Nobel". The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 (2): 191. 
  5. ^ Claudia Goldin, "Cliometrics and the Nobel", The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), p. 194.
  6. ^ Fogel R. Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History, 1964, The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1St Edition (December 1, 1964), ISBN 0801802016.
  7. ^ Claudia Goldin, "Cliometrics and the Nobel", The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), p. 206.
  8. ^ a b c The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1993, Press Release, October 12, 2003.
  9. ^ North, Douglass C. (1968). "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850." Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 76 (September–October), pp. 953-70.
  10. ^ *History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies. Edited by Peter Turchin, Leonid Grinin, Andrey Korotayev, and Victor C. de Munck. Moscow: KomKniga, 2006. ISBN 5484010020


  • Fogel R. Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History, 1964.
  • Fogel, Robert William and Engerman, Stanley L. Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. Reissue edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995. ISBN 0393312186
  • Lyons, John S., Louis P. Cain and Samuel H. Williamson, eds. Reflections on the Cliometrics Revolution: Conversations with Economic Historians (Routledge, 2008), 506pp; ISBN 978-0-415-70091-7; reprinted interviews from the Newsletter of the Cliometric Society
  • North, Douglas, The State of Economic History (bibliography), American Economic Review, 55 (May 1965)
  • North, Douglas and Thomas, Robert, The rise of the Western world: a new economic history, Cambridge University Press, 1973
  • Boldizzoni, Francesco, The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History, Princeton University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-691-14400-9 (Reviewed in The Montreal Review)

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cliometrics — [klī΄ō me′triks΄] n. [< CLIO + Gr metron, measure: see METER1] the use of mathematical and statistical methods, and often of computers, in analyzing historical data cliometric adj. cliometrician [klī΄ōmə trish′ən] n …   English World dictionary

  • Cliometrics — A method of analyzing history through the application of quantitative methods. Also called new economic history, cliometrics uses economic theory and econometrics to gain insight into the past with modeling and statistics. Cliometrics was… …   Investment dictionary

  • cliometrics — A term formed by compounding the muse of history and the concept of measurement, devised by its practitioners to describe the ‘new quantitative economic history’ which developed in the United States during the late 1950s, and rapidly became… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • cliometrics — noun plural but singular in construction Etymology: Clio + metrics (as in econometrics) Date: 1960 the application of methods developed in other fields (as economics, statistics, and data processing) to the study of history • cliometric adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cliometrics — cliometric, adj. cliometrically, adv. cliometrician /klee oh mi trish euhn, kluy oh /, n. /klee oh me triks, kluy oh /, n. (used with a sing. v.) the study of historical data by the use of statistical, often computerized, techniques. [1965 70;… …   Universalium

  • cliometrics — noun The use of econometrics to study economic history See Also: cliometric, cliometrician …   Wiktionary

  • cliometrics — n. study of economic history by application of advanced mathematical concepts and computerized techniques and use of statistics …   English contemporary dictionary

  • cliometrics — [ˌklʌɪə(ʊ) mɛtrɪks] plural noun [treated as sing.] a technique for the interpretation of economic history, based on the statistical analysis of numerical data from population censuses, parish registers, etc. Derivatives cliometric adjective… …   English new terms dictionary

  • cliometrics — clio·met·rics …   English syllables

  • cliometrics — cli•o•met•rics [[t]ˌkli oʊˈmɛ trɪks, ˌklaɪ oʊ [/t]] n. (used with a sing. v.) sta the statistical study of historical data • Etymology: 1965–70 cli o•met′ric, adj. cli o•met′ri•cal•ly, adv. cli o•me•tri′cian mɪˈtrɪʃ ən n …   From formal English to slang

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