February 23rd, 2011
On voxeu.org I came across this interesting article by Jeremia Dittmar on the growth of cities its relationship with the development of the printed press. The argument basically is: those cities that adopted the printing press had higher growth rates, i.e., a faster growth in population and subsequently a better economic development.
For the current (mega-)trend towards cities (in the 21st century – by 2050 70 % of the world’s population will be living in cities), this could mean that information and communication technology (so to say: the Internet as the successor of the printing press) is the basis for future prosperity. But then: we also now that a creative milieu, the youth of the population, openness towards immigrants/and or new ideas are part of future city development.
The Diffusion of the Movable Type Printing Press in Europe, 1450 – 1500, by Jeremia Dittmar, available on voxeu.org:
Some interesting quotes in the article by Jeremia Dittmar:
- The figure above gives an overview of the adoption of the printing press. Interestingly, the U.K. is sparsely populated, also, it seems that northern Italy is a real hotspot in 1500 (besides the Netherlands).
- the growth argument in the article says, that those cities that adopted the printing press, had an advantage in growth of the population – against the other cities – of 21 points (1500 – 1600).
- the reason for this could be that the diffusion was still difficult (the technology was almost kept proprietary for over a century, books were heavy) and thus the geographic coverage was limited. This in combination with positive spillovers (creative, intelligent, young people were attracted) finally led to growth. More concrete, the availability of books on arithmetic basics was key to trading countries and regions such as Portugal, northern Italy, etc. (in order to calculate exchange rates, profit shares, interest rates, etc.).