The French Cliometric Association


Founded in 2001, the French cliometric association is aimed at re-launching cliometrics in France and abroad, that is to say international research on quantitative history structured by economic theory and using statistical and econometric methods.

As good Popperians, we consider that scientific work is not the production of 'real' results but consists of submitting oneself to rational criticism, that is to say accepting the testing of a theory by facts and being ready for a possible refutation. A science is objective not because the researcher lacks sensitivity or political ideas and is protected from interference between his work and value judgements (although he must eliminate this to address the problems more clearly), but because his results can be subjected to the criticism of the community of honest researchers. 

What is Cliometrics ?


Part I - What is Cliometrics ?

Part II - What is retrospective growth accounting ?

Part III - What is Convergence ?

Part IV - A New View of Evolutionary Economics, Game Theory and Cliometrics



Part I - What is Cliometrics ?

The aim of this note is to arrive at precise notions concerning the subject-matter of cliometrics.

Cliometric analysis is foremost a theoretical approach. Great emphasis is placed on developing a coherent and consistent theoretical model that will provide the basis for interpreting historical economic and social phenomena. Cliometric models enable a better understanding of the real world. Because economic and social processes are complex, a thorough understanding of the underlying forces and interrelationships is generally impossible. Models break up phenomena into more manageable portions by abstracting those variables that are believed to be a significant influence on choice and subjecting them to deductive reasoning based on a set of accepted axioms. Logical conclusions are then derived which must be translated into propositions about the real world. These propositions or predictions must then be compared to actual behavior and experience, either by observation or statistical methods.

Cliometrics Shows its Teeth !


The New Economic History (a term proposed by Jonathan Hughes) or Cliometrics (coined by Stanley Reiter), meaning literally the measurement of history, is of very recent origin. The first to claim involvement in it were Conrad & Meyer in 1957 and 1958 .

The birth of cliometrics amounts to a revolution, a total break with traditional economic history. Whether this is true or not is doubtless of little importance today. As eminent a defender of the new school as Robert Fogel perceives a clear continuity between old and new economic history. What is certain is that economic history has awarded an increasing important position to theory since the end of the 1950s. It also used increasingly rigorous statistical and econometric analysis for the simple reason that a fair number of the problems that remain unsolved in economic history are such that the only intellectually satisfactory answers are quantitative by definition.

How Much Could Economics Gain from History: the Contribution of Cliometrics


There has always been an intense debate in economics concerning its nature (deductive or inductive, "soft" or "hard" science…) and the type of the laws its method could uncover. Beneath there is also a deeper debate on the type of discipline that economics should try to emulate: mathematics, logics, physics, biology or history, even philosophy (see Kolm, 1986). Most economists would agree that the discipline should be a nomological science — one that produces universal laws — but there is less consensus regarding the nature of those laws and how they relate to reality (Lawson, 1997, 2003). There is actually less consensus than expected even among so-called mainstream economists. Some consider indeed that economics is just a branch of (applied, but here also a debate is possible) mathematics (see Rosenberg, 1992; Debreu, 1991). The real economies are so complicated that only a Platonician approach with deductions from axioms of individual rationality could be used to establish simple laws relating economic variables ceteris paribus (Albert, 1970). These laws are time-invariant and valid under a very precise set of assumptions (the latter could be rather unrealistic if the derived predictions make sense, following Friedman's point of view, see Friedman, 1953). We find here among economists two different views regarding the empirical relevance of such deduced laws: for a part of the profession such laws are purely logical ones, with no necessary direct empirical measurable counterparts (Debreu in a sense defends such a position; it is also the case of people working on social choices or economic justice, aiming at a so-called normative science) but for another part of the profession such derived laws should be testable (i.e. the implied variables should have empirical, measurable counterparts, see for example Beckerian's economics). The difference here is between a pure axiomatic approach (Stigum, 1990) that views economics as logics or mathematics or even political philosophy (not an empirical science) and a more realist point of view (the deductive approach should tell us things that otherwise would have remained hidden, but that are still measurable or testable); in other words between a view of economics as "pure theory " [1] and of economics as an applied science (even if, as physics, grounded on a consistent mathematical theory). These laws that can be deduced from a body of axioms should be tested once the context has been checked by using measurement (the quantitative aspect—using econometrics).

A New Methodology for the History of Economic Thought


1. Introduction

Many leading economists are concerned about the future of the history of economic thought. Even though all recognize the importance of this discipline, they express pessimistic predictions concerning its future. Indeed these views reflect a strong reality in the academic world as the decreasing opportunities to pursue graduate studies in economic history clearly show it. In spite of the fact that economic sciences do not let much room for history of economic thought anymore, many young scholars choose to pursue a career in this field. Is there a future for them? Is history of economic thought a useless, old-fashioned discipline with no interest for current economic developments?

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