Historical economies

Incomes have risen per capita globally, since 500 B.C.



What happened in 1000 A.D. that caused it to go up a little? 

I don’t entirely know. What I do know the Islamic World was in its Golden Age, Europe was in the Middle Ages, and Rome was the most powerful state in the world. Maybe that had something to do with it.

What happened in 1300 A.D. that caused it to dip and then go back up?

Again, I don’t know completely, but these are the things that I do know happened around that time: the Mongol Empire, the High Middle Ages, the black plague, and the end of serfdom and the beginning of capitalism. So probably the black plague, which killed 30%-50% of the population.

What happened in 1900 A.D. that caused it to go up so drastically?


Here’s a look at different estimates of the human population 100,000 years before the present.


What happened around 8,000 years ago? Civilization!

What changed at around 5,000 years ago? The first recorded revolutions AND imperialism!

Paleolithic era (estimated 3.3 million years ago-10,000 BC)

Humans were made up of small kin groups. The global population was between 1 and 15 million, in comparison to the 7 billion we have now. The average world GDP per capita was $158 per year (adjusted to 2013 dollars) and did not rise very much until the Industrial Revolution in 1760-ish.

Mesolithic era (estimated 20,000 BC-9,500 BC)

This was the end of the last glacial period. There was slow domestication of plants and animals, as well as small settled communities.

Neolithic era (estimated 10,200 BC-2,000 BC)

Trade and exchange began among neighboring tribes because tribes specialized in different things, and traded what they were most efficient at. The first money was probably cattle. In fact, I think the word money comes from the word for cattle. The first commodity money existed, so for example shell jewelry in the form of strung beads. For distribution and organization of scarce resources, humans relied on tradition, community cooperation, and/or top-down command.

Early money, money cowry:


Antiquity or Bronze and Iron ages (3,300 BC-800 AD)

City states developed at this time. Sumer, modern day Southern Iraq, developed a market economy and their money was shekels, a certain weight measure of barley. They also had the first written financial laws such as interest rates, fines as punishment for a crime, inheritance, taxes, and division of land.

Temples were the first creditors, in Sumer. They charged interest and rent, as well as, doing business with debt and making profit. This was probably the first legal profit-seeking trade. A temple!

GDP per capita (PPP) globally since 1 AD-2015 AD

In 1 AD, the highest GDP per capita (PPP) in 1990 dollars, was Italy with $809 per person in the population annually. By 1,000 AD, it was Italy again but with less, $450 per person in the population annually.

Strangely enough, in 1 AD, the poorest countries were the Scandinavian countries with $400 per person in the population annually and it stayed like that until 1500 AD. It’s strange because now, Scandinavia is around #15 on the list of GDP per capita income as of 2015, with about $47,000. To put it in perspective, the U.S. is #11, at $55,000. Compare that with the wealthiest population in 1 AD, Italy, making $850 as your annual income.

Classical era (476 AD-1453 AD)

India and China made up half the size of the world economy. Commerce began going long distances and nations began to trade with other nations. Denominations of gold and silver coins were first introduced in Lydia, modern day Turkey. The first economists began to write their thoughts on things such as scarcity of resources.

The first gold coins, the Lydian Lion


The Middle Ages (400 AD-1400 AD)

In the Middle Ages, there was an increase in population and trade. The silk road began trade between Europe, Central Asia, and China. Italy began the first modern accounting and finance systems. The first banknotes were used in China in 800 AD.

Early Modern era (1500 AD-1800 AD)

The Early Modern era saw the beginning of mercantilism, nationalism and international trade. It was also the end of feudalism. Europeans came to the Americas and traded between the two continents, as well as with Asia. The economic and political thought of the time was to use military to secure and protect markets and supply sources.

The Industrial Revolution (1760 AD-1840 AD)

Energy was discovered and produced in mass amounts. Right there at the tail end is the utilization of hydraulic fracking, otherwise, it peaked in 1970.


This grew the population and GDP per capita into that famous hockey stick shape.



The twentieth century (1900 AD-2000 AD)

The highest growth occurred in the 1960s during post-war reconstruction. Another contributor to the rapid growth was going from national trade to international trade. Shipping containers made it cheaper to transport good internationally.



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