Building on Angus Maddison’s Work

David Henderson

Published: September 2010

Angus Maddison died last April. As can be seen on his website, he left an impressive legacy of books, articles and tables of key figures. For many, his single most notable and distinctive contribution is the set of tables entitled Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1–2008 AD. This comprehensive and widely used database is uniquely rich, accessible and convenient to use: no other source in the world compares with it. This article argues the case for continuing and building on Maddison’s work through a wide-ranging cooperative scholarly programme. Ideally, such a programme would embody two related features. First, it would cover both the historical dimension and continuing developments in the world economy: the Maddison series would remain topical, as well as an ongoing contribution to quantitative economic history. Second, the programme would involve not only non-official experts, in universities and research institutes, but also national and international statistical agencies. Two immediate tasks are (1) extending the Maddison series to 2009 and (in due course) later years, and (2) inquiring into the differences that have emerged between some of Maddison’s estimates, in particular for China, and the counterpart figures put out by the leading international agencies.

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