Phil Gramm vs. the Whiners of America
20080903 Malthusian Economy Problem Set

20080903 Econ 113 Lecture: Amerindians, Conquistadores, Explorers, Settlers, and Empires, 10000 BC to 1800

The Role of the Lecture: Four Reasons

  • Budget stringency: lectures are cheap for the university relative to seminars, and even if they are markedly less effective they do soak up students' time
  • Alternative information channel: The ears are wired to the brain differently than the eyes, and there is value in not only reading something but also hearing something in producing the synaptic changes that we want to see happen in college.
  • A self-discipline device: if people have to show up at a certain place at a certain time to accomplish a task or be disciplined, they are more likely to do so. Lecture as a way of solving our self-command and self-control problems.
    • But why not then just have a study hall? Everyone reads the book, and the monitor circulates and answers questions?
  • A sociological event: East African Plains Apes like to do things in groups that involve language--that is just who we are--and the lecture is just another example of this...

The Relevance of Economic History:

Economic history sheds light on:

  • The role of education in the economy
  • The nature and causes of economic growth
  • Boom and bust cycles--in high tech and elsewhere
  • The pros and cons of immigration
  • Work and opportunity
  • The appropriate size and role of the government
  • Economic theory in general: theory is crystalized history, boiled down, and it is important to check that the right ingredients have been thrown into the mix
  • The economic history of the United States is particularly interesting for two reasons:
    • We are here...
    • It has been for two centuries a very special country...
      • Politics
      • People

The Method of Economic History:

  • Economics: concerned with averages (cases shed light on what average numbers mean, but unrepresentative cases are uninteresting); not facts but interconnections and patterns
  • History: economic theory is crystalized history, boiled down, and it is important to check that the right ingredients have been thrown into the mix
  • Economists abstract and model (using words, equations, and graphs)--we are going to be economists studying history
  • The Framework:
    • Growth
    • Distribution
    • Markets
    • Institutions
    • Politics

A Question: Hunter-gatherers who are exploring a previously-unsettled frontier can walk a mile a week.

How long after their arrival in the new world ca. 14000 years ago do you think it took the Amerindians to spread out and essentially cover the entire two continents of the Americas?

What implications does this have for how we think about the human history of the Americas between ca. 12000 BC and 1492?

A Question: Roughly 14000 years ago rough 100 humans made it to the Americas across the Bering Land Bridge.

A Malthusianly-unstressed preindustrial human population with reasonable access to food (whether hunter-gatherer, herder, or settled agriculture) roughly doubles in a generation of 25 years or so.

If the incipient Amerindian population had remained unstressed, how many American Indians would there be today?

What implications does this have for how we think about the human history of the Americas between ca. 12000 BC and 1492?


12000 BC Clovis People: Migration to America? (100 people?)
300 Teotihuacan (10 square miles; 150,000 people?)
800 Tikal (15 square miles; 150,000 people?)
1001 Norse: Leif Eiriksson to Newfoundland
1200 Inca: Manco Capac founds Kingdom of Cuzco
1248 Mexica Tenochca: Settle Chapultepec
1325 Mexica Tenochca: Found Tenochtitlan (peak population 200,000?)
1425-1487 Mexica Tenochca: Hutzilopochtli Reformation under Tlacaelel
1428 Mexica Tenochca: Triple alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan
1442 Inca: Tawantinsuyu Empire under Pachacutec
1449 Mexica Tenochca: Motecozoma I becomes the sixth Hueyi Tlatoani
1492 Spain: Columbus to America
1497 England: John Cabot to Newfoundland
1500 Portugal: Pedro Álvares Cabral to Brazil
1508 Spain: Cuba settled
1518 Spain: Slavery introduced into Caribbean
1521 Spain: Cortes conquers Mexico
1524 France: Verrazano to the U.S. Atlantic Coast
1527 Inca: Smallpox epidemic kills Inca Emperor Huayna Capac and crown prince Ninan Cuyochi
1529-1532 Inca: Huascar-Athualpa civil war
1533 Spain: Pizarro conquers Peru
1565 Spain: Settles St Augustine, FL
1585 England: Settles Roanoke Island, NC
1588-1603 England-Spain: War of the Armada
1607 England: Settles Jamestown, VA
1608 France: Settles Quebec
1609 Spain: Settles Santa Fe, NM
1620 England: Settles Plimouth Plantation, MA
1624 Holland: Settles New Amsterdam
1629 England: Settles Boston, MA
1634 England: Settles Maryland
1643 Sweden: Settles Pennsylvania
1664 England-Holland: England captures New York and New Jersey
1670 England: Settles Georgia
1718 France: Settles New Orleans, LA
1763 Spain-France: Spain captures New Orleans
1761 England-France: England captures Canada
1763 England: Royal proclamation places a moratorium on settlement beyond the Appalachian mountains
1769 Spain: Fray Junípero Serra settles San Diego
1771 Spain: Gaspar de Portola arrives at San Francisco Bay
1784 Russia: Grigory Shelikhov settles Alaska
1812 Russia: Settles Fort Ross, CA
1836 Spain: Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo settles Sonoma, CA
1843 England: Settles Vancouver, BC

Lecture Topics:

During the pre-industrial early-modern period, 1400-1700, high Eurasian civilizations projected power across oceans in six ways...

  • Ming China--Zheng He's prestige voyages: 25 K people in an armada of 100 ships; compare to British navy in mid-eighteenth century of 50 K; bring back oddities--giraffe--Qilin--King of Ceylon, but... (i) expensive, (ii) does nothing to challenge the view that China is the Central Country, (iii) politics leads to shutting-down of Ming Dynasty transoceanic exploration, and (iv) under the subsequent Qing the sea was regarded as a place from which danger came:

    • Pirates
    • Ming pretenders
    • Managing the gentry elite in the Yangzi valley and the rest of the Chinese southland was hard enough
    • The peach-blossom fan
  • Seaborne Empires: Portugal--Holland--Britain (with France trying to get into the game): (i) invade the Indian ocean; (ii) sink everything that moves; (iii) acquire monopoly of ocean traffic; (iv) build bases (example: Sultan of Malacca); (v) trade--from a highly advantageous position as a monopolist; (vi) PROFIT!

    • Holland in late seventeenth century: maybe 50 K people directly and indirectly engaged in East India trade (out of a total population of 4 million); 5% of Dutch GDP; healthy, but not overwhelming effect on the Portuguese, Dutch, and British economies; but did have first-order effects on domestic politics; then in the late 1800s the British East India Company makes its bid for power in India...
  • Conquest and Occupation: Spain in the New World: encomienda/hacienda/mining--creation of an elite ruling class; largely uninterested in what we would see as economic development; "to serve God, to win glory, and to grow rich"; nevertheless, over time things changed: no longer Spanish would-be aristocrats ruling over Amerindian serfs...

    • Digression on Silver and Spain
      • Allows Carlos V and Felipe II-IV to fight the Wars of the Counterreformation
      • Deindustrializes Spain
      • In the long run, Spain's American empire a source of wealth--and a cultural and industrial curse
      • Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote
  • Slave Raiding: the slave trade in historical perspective; Gaius Julius Caesar; Middle Easterners in East Africa; firearms change things; Europeans in West Africa: (i) trade guns for slaves on the African coast; (ii) kings to whom you have sold guns than capture more slaves; (iii) ship slaves to sugar islands and turn them into a labor force; (iv) work them nearly to death; (v) ship commodities to Europe; (vi) PROFIT!

    • Need (a) firearms, (b) and (c) plantation agriculture, plus (d) a middle class market; similar but much less terrible things going on in eastern Europe at the same time--the "second serfdom"; terrible consequences for African civilizations...
    • Extraordinary potential profitability of slavery: some rough numbers:* consider a small slave ship: 150 slaves--100 survive--surplus value: 100 x 1/4 x 10 yrs = 250 man-years of value; amortized cost of ship: 25 man-years; cost of crew (2 voyages a year): 10 man-years; cost of trade goods (guns): 15 man-years; a 5-1 ratio of revenue to cost--but exceptional hazards, cost to your conscience, et cetera...
  • Plantation Agriculture on the Sugar Islands: use slaves to grow plantation crops: coffee, sugar, tobacco [chocolate, cocaine?]: digression on pests and parasites, extremely nasty social formations on the sugar islands; extremely profitable...

  • Small-Farmer Settlement:

    • Religious motive
    • Company profit motive (except for the Hudson's Bay Company, didn't work)
    • Get-a-farm motive

The sixth--small farm settlement--was, to contemporaries, the least attractive--it was what you did when you couldn't do anything else. The sixth was also, in the long run, the most productive as far as economic growth is concerned...

Pre-Industrial Growth Accounting:

Problem Set for Next Week:

Malthusian Economy (due September 10):

Readings for Next Week:

M Sep 8: Colonists, 1600-1776

W Sep 10: Slavery and Its Legacy, 1600-1929

Ancient Alaskans peopled America first 2014 Far North Science

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M Sep 8: Colonists, 1600-1776