Development Lessons From the Past in a Non-Ergodic World

How is it that, since Renaissance Europe, some
nations of the world managed to grow and
maintain great wealth while other countries
remained poor? Among the many economists,
social historians, and other social scientists who have tried to
explain the forces and conditions that precipitated the economic
emergence of the West are four who have addressed one or
another variant of this question for the better part of their lives:
Douglass North, Alfred Crosby, Nathan Rosenberg, and Robert
Higgs, who this spring will comprise an Athenaeum speakers
series entitled How the West Grew Rich. The series is sponsored
by the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic

Douglass C. North, corecipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in
Economic Science, has, over a distinguished career spanning
more than 50 years, concentrated on the formation of political
and economic institutions, the consequences of these institutions,
and the performance of economies through time. Professor
North has taught at the University of Washington in Seattle,
where he spent 33 years; at Rice University, where he was
the Peterkin Professor of Political Economics; at Cambridge
University, as Pitt Professor of American Institutions; and at
Stanford, as Visiting Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies
in the Behavioral Sciences and (currently) Senior Fellow at the
Hoover Institution.

The author of more than 50 articles and eight books (including Economic Growth of the United States, 1790 to 1860 (1961), Growth
and Welfare in the American Past: A New Economic History
(1966), and Structure and Change in
Economic History
(1981)) , North has garnered virtually all of the
economic profession's major awards. In addition to winning the
Nobel Prize with colleague R.W. Fogel, North's honors include
election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and
to the Fellowship of the British Academy. In 1992 he became
the first economic historian ever to win the highly prestigious
John R. Commons Award, and in 1996 was installed as the first
Spencer T. Olin Professor in the Arts and Sciences at Washington
University in St. Louis.