Economic Inequality Network

Economic Inequality Network (EI-Net)

Network organizer: Guido Alfani (guido.alfani@unibocconi.it)

EI-Net is the scientific network connecting researchers interested in pre-industrial economic inequality. The network began in January 2013 and welcomes researchers from all over the world, from all disciplines and in all stages of their careers.

            The characteristics and trends of economic inequality before the 19th century are still clearly understudied, and almost all we know relates to small areas of the European continent. This network aims to promote new research in the field and to favour scientific exchanges, possibly leading to the start of large-scale cooperative and comparative research projects.

            EI-Net is meant simply as a means for circulating information among members. There are no specific commitments and there are no fees to be paid. Any member is welcome to distribute information about scientific initiatives connected to pre-industrial economic inequality by means of the newsletter regularly sent to all members.

            The network is supported by the ERC-funded research project EINITE-Economic Inequality across Italy and Europe (1300-1800).

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Open Calls Promoted by EI-Net

Conference “Economic inequality in preindustrial Europe” (Bocconi University, Milan, 25 November 2016)

After years of relative neglect by economic historians, recently long-term trends in economic inequality have become the object of considerable attention. This process has involved different parts of the world, but nowhere has research on preindustrial inequality intensified as much as in Europe, partly due to the exceptionally good and ancient historical sources available for many areas of that continent. The project EINITE (Economic Inequality across Italy and Europe 1300-1800), funded by the European Research Council, has also contributed to this renewal of interest by organizing regular workshops on preindustrial inequality and other scientific activities.

EINITE is now working on its final conference, which aims at bringing together representatives of all the main research groups working on preindustrial European inequality. The aim is to provide an opportunity for comparing the wealth of new information about inequality which is being unearthed, to favour cooperation between international scholars, to establish some clear landmarks (‘what we know about inequality’) as well as to indicate the path for future research (‘what we don’t know’).

All proposals about inequality of wealth or income in any part of Europe before ca.1800 are welcome. Preference will be given to proposals presenting new evidence, reconstructing long-term trends and/or offering comparisons between different areas of the continent.

The conference will take place at Bocconi University (Milan, Italy), on 25 November 2016. The organization will cover the travel expenses of all accepted participants.

Proposals, inclusive of a title and a short abstract, should be sent to Guido Alfani (guido.alfani@unibocconi.it) before 5 September 2016.


Session "Economic inequality in pre-industrial Eurasia" at World Economic History Conference (Kyoto, 3-5 August 2015)

There is evidence that in early modern western Europe GDP per capita grew while real wages declined in many European countries over the same period. This finding has been interpreted as indicating that income inequality was widening in the early modern period since per capita GDP averages the earnings of the rich with the poor, whereas the real wage index focuses on the latter only. According to this interpretation, therefore, a finding about Tokugawa Japan, that a divergence between wage change and output growth did not take place, may be regarded as evidence of no rise in inequality during the period before the take-off of modern economic growth.

This session explores long-term changes in economic inequality with more direct measures, such as the Gini, of either income or wealth inequality, or both, in relation to the "left side" of the so-called super Kuznets curve. The topic has long been understudied. However, recent research by European historians has unearthed new data from the archives, which have enabled us to estimate Ginis and other inequality measures for a particular area under a particular set of historical circumstances. It is evident that levels of economic inequality were not immobile during the late medieval and early modern periods. While the general tendency is likely to have been on the rise (suggesting that the "inequality possibility frontier" was expanding), changes took place according to specific mechanisms which are still to be uncovered and explained. This raises new region-specific questions about the early modern European inequality issue.

Moreover, ongoing projects on different parts of the world, especially the Asian region from the Middle East to Japan, urge us to place our research findings in a comparative context. Such comparison has much to do with the current debate on the Great and the Little Divergence. During the past decade, differences in growth performance between Asia and Europe as well as within each of the Eurasian regions have been explored: in Europe the North Sea area kept up the growth momentum but the Mediterranean region could not, while within Asia China and India are likely to have been taken over by slowly but steadily growing Japan during the early modern period. These are phenomena which will raise a broader question about the subtle interplay between growth and inequality in this historic phase of development.

The session is open to contributions from all parts of Europe and Asia, both empirical (providing new data) and theoretical or interpretative. Micro studies are welcome, especially for areas previously uncovered by research on preindustrial inequality, as well as works covering larger areas or having a comparative character.

While the ultimate aim of the session is to provide direct Eurasian comparisons, proposals related to other areas of the world are also much appreciated as they would extend our comparison possibility frontier beyond Eurasia.

If you wish to propose a contribution to the session, please send an email with a provisional title and a short abstract to Guido Alfani (guido.alfani@unibocconi.it) before 31 May 2014.


Session "Economic Inequality and Population Dynamics" at European Social Science History Conference (Vienna, 23-26 April 2014)

           This session intends to explore the connection between population dynamics and changes in levels of economic inequality. Some recent studies suggest that demographic factors could have played an important role in determining inequality trends, both in the short and long run. For example, in the long run country-city migration contributed to shaping inequality trends and levels both in urban and in rural communities (due to wealth/income differentials between urban and rural households). In the short run, severe mortality crises, like those caused by the worst plague epidemics, had re-distributive consequences and in some instances (like at the time of the Black Death) could have had 'displacement effects', causing relevant and long-lasting changes in levels of economic inequality. The session welcomes both micro studies as well as general overviews about any area of the world. Preference is given to papers concerning pre-industrial societies.

            If you wish to propose a contribution to the session, please send an email including a title and a short abstract to Guido Alfani (guido.alfani@unibocconi.it) before 30 April 2013.
















Last updated 05 October 2016 - 11:33:00