Douglass North, Shipping Productivity and Institutions

A chapter in 'A Companion to Douglass North', Forthcoming

6 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2018

Date Written: May 30, 2018


Douglass North is known largely for his work on institutions (1981; 1990; 1991; 2005; North and Thomas 1973; North, Wallis and Weingast 2009). This legitimate emphasis on this segment of his work overshadows his earlier contributions regarding the empirical measurement of the past. Yet, when awarding him the Nobel Prize in economics in 1993 (jointly with Robert Fogel), the Nobel committee justified itself by pointing to his “explanatory model for American economic growth before 1860” and his research on “productivity in ocean shipping”. Throughout his early career, North dedicated numerous articles and books to the topic of measuring economies in the past. Over time, these articles have been supplanted with richer empirical works, but it is necessary to realize how important these earlier works, especially the 1968 article on shipping productivity, were to shaping North’s later research agenda on institutions.

Keywords: Douglass North

Suggested Citation

Geloso, Vincent, Douglass North, Shipping Productivity and Institutions (May 30, 2018). A chapter in 'A Companion to Douglass North', Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Vincent Geloso (Contact Author)

Bates College ( email )

Department of Economics
Lewiston, ME
United States

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