The market for ideas and the origins of economic growth in eighteenth century Europe

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The roots of European economic growth in the nineteenth century must be seen in its intellectual background as well as in its economic environment. The closer interactions between different kinds of useful knowledge were prompted by the Enlightenment as, were institutional reforms which prevented economic growth from becoming a victim of predatory or opportunistic actions, as it had before. This leaves the emergence of the Enlightenment as the unresolved explanandum. It is argued here that the Enlightenment emerged from the fertile ground from a unique concatenation of circumstances: the political fragmentation of Europe, which made the suppression of innovators by the ruling orthodoxy and vested in-terests more difficult, coupled to an intellectual coherence that manifested itself in the transnational republic of letters. The resulting 'market for ideas' led to a competitive set-up in the sphere of intellectual activity, in which coherent and supportable ideas (or those that seemed that way at the time) had a fair chance to succeed, though this was never pre-ordained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-38
Number of pages36
JournalTijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


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