I am writing this short update from Montréal, host city for the 2018 Meetings of the Economic History Association. I had a little wonder around the McGill campus this morning, and am about to visit the Museum of Fine Arts. I am very much looking forward to the conference, which starts tomorrow.
From the conference programme, I can see quite a few contributors to An Economist's Guide will be here: Guido Alfani, Vellore Arthi, Jari Eloranta, Price Fishback, Rowena Gray, Noel Johnson, Mark Koyama, Alexander Moradi, Larry Neal, Cormac Ó Gráda, Richard Steckel, and, of course, yours truly! That's 12 out of 51 of the book's authors in one place. Note bad!
On Sunday, I will be presenting a paper I wrote with Matthias and Eoin on the Great Irish Famine. We used our prison dataset to do some anthropometrics, the study of human height - a surprisingly good indicator of health when you haven't got other statistics to hand. We find evidence that those who survived the Famine and reached adulthood are highly selected bunch who did not themselves suffer famine malnutrition and disease. We think this is an important result for a number of reasons, not least because related studies do a bad job of considering selection effects. You can read the full paper here.
Meanwhile, Matthias and I have been putting in the finishing touches to the book proofs. All the missing references are now sorted, and Adi's new visually-appealing graphics uploaded. We will see another version in a couple of weeks to make any last-minute changes, and then it is off to the printers!
We have just received the fully typeset and copy-edited version of the book back from the publishers. It is looking good! Some small problems to solve, including loads of missing references and a few eclectic spelling varieties that have somehow escaped the attention of the proofreaders. (I fear that I will never fully understand our American cousins' penchant for the letter z - that's "zee", not "zed".)
One disappointment, however, has been the quality of the typeset figures. They all look like they were pasted straight from Excel. Because, well, they were! I had hoped for a little more...
So my friend Adi McCrea has agreed to help us out at very short notice. Adi is a data scientist and Tableau whiz. She has already sent me some prototypes. These new-and-improved figures will look great!
(For a discussion of why good data visualisation should be considered much more important to economists than it usually is, see this interview with Jonathan Schwabish, who wrote a great visualisation guide for the JEP back in 2014.)
Other stuff we are adding to the book at this stage include a series of cartoons by Ashleigh Neill, and a set of haiku by Stephen Ziliak. Both these projects were inspired by the contents of the book. Along with Adi's data visualisation magic, we hope that you will agree that the inclusion of this material will elevate the finished product to a piece of high art!
I spent much of July in Picardy, in northern France. Just down the road from us was a First World War War cemetery for members of the Chinese Labour Corps. The cemetery has a fascinating history, and my visit got me thinking about the economics behind this history.
The non-combatants buried in the cimetière chinois were part of a group that migrated to Europe from northern China on the promise of employment by the British Army. The migrant workers arrived from April 1917, and numbered 96,000 at their peak. Most of the 838 men interned in the cemetery died after the war had ended, succumbing to the Spanish Flu.
These migrants experienced considerable hardships. It is not unfair to say that the British and French governments took their sweet time to decide what to do with members of the Chinese Labour Corps. Some did return to China. Others were permitted to move to Paris and other big cities. But many were "warehoused" in camps in the Somme Valley, for years. They were only permitted to leave these camps for short visits to the surrounding villages, and only under the supervision of army minders.
An Economist's Guide to Economic History contains lots of material that can be combined to better understand the history of this cemetery from an economic perspective. Relevant chapters include one on migration (chapter 10, by Braun), another on disease (chapter 16, by Alfani and Ó Gráda), and another on the world wars (chapter 30, by Eloranta). I look forward to re-reading these chapters later this month, once they have been typeset by Palgrave Macmillan.
I decided to have a go at making a little vlog in which I introduce the cemetery. Making videos is hard work! Glenn Colvin (my dad) did the filming and editing. The copyright to the historical images of the Chinese Labour Corps is held by the Imperial War Museum (images Q2696, Q3917 and Q8518). I hope you enjoy my first attempt at video communication! Lessons learnt: wear a different shirt (to avoid the moiré effect), speak faster and in a more consistent pattern, and walk more normally!
An Economist's Guide to Economic History is currently being typeset by our publisher, Palgrave Macmillan. Amazon.co.uk has started selling the book in advance of publication, for 24.99 GBP. Note that the price is likely to fluctuate a little over the coming months due to exchange rates. Amazon's ETA: 24 November 2018. Watch this space for news on the book's progress through the presses!