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  • Published: 1 Sep 2017
  • DOI: 10.4324/9781138201521-HET4-1


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Early ideas on economic development
  • Classical political economy
  • Marx, colonies and imperialism
  • Colonial and nationalist thought on economic development
  • Conclusion
  • References

Economic Development and Economic Growth, 1700–1914

Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA, Department of Economics, FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador


This essay reviews the main themes in the history of economic thought on economic development and economic growth between 1700 and 1914. Although recognizing that there were earlier contributions, the review starts with the mercantilists and other pre-classical writers such as the Physiocrats, and then discusses the theories of the British classical political economy, focusing especially on Adam Smith and David Ricardo. It then turns to the contributions of Karl Marx and his followers, and other writers on imperialism. Although in Europe the focus of economic thought turned away from overall economic growth and economic development to the behaviour of individual agents and to resource allocation across markets, the study of economic development and growth continued in the writings not only of those interested in imperialism, but also those working on colonial administration and nationalist writers in different parts of the world, such as the United States, Germany and India. It is argued that the systematic study of economic development and economic growth started long before the period during and after World War II, unlike what conventional wisdom suggests.