A Numerical Revolution: The Diffusion of Practical Mathematics and the Growth of Pre-modern European Economies

60 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2022 Last revised: 6 Oct 2023

See all articles by Raffaele Danna

Raffaele Danna

University of Cambridge

Martina Iori

Scuola Superiore Sant' Anna

Andrea Mina

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna; Centre for Business Research, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

Date Written: June 22, 2022

Abstract

The accumulation of knowledge and its application to a variety of human needs are discontinuous
processes that can lead to economic growth through innovation and change. In this paper, we
focus on the diffusion of new mathematical knowledge from the 13th to the end of the 16th
century in Europe. Using an original dataset of over 1000 manuals of practical arithmetic, we
produce new descriptive and quasi-experimental evidence on the economic importance of the
European transition from Roman to Hindu-Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). We
show that, by laying the foundations for the commercial developments observed from the 13th
century onwards, this numerical revolution had positive and significant effects on the growth of
pre-modern European economies.

Keywords: Human capital; knowledge diffusion; learning; economic growth

JEL Classification: O3, O4, N13, N3

Suggested Citation

Danna, Raffaele and Iori, Martina and Mina, Andrea, A Numerical Revolution: The Diffusion of Practical Mathematics and the Growth of Pre-modern European Economies (June 22, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4143442 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4143442

Raffaele Danna

University of Cambridge

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Martina Iori

Scuola Superiore Sant' Anna ( email )

Italy

Andrea Mina (Contact Author)

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna ( email )

Piazza Martiri delle LIbertà 33
Pisa, Pisa 56127
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.santannapisa.it/it/andrea-mina

Centre for Business Research, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/people/the-team/andrea-mina/

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