Some Doubts about the Economic Analysis of the Flow of Silver to China in 1550–1820

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Abstract

The paper takes issue with the mainstream economic analysis of the enormous flow of silver into China in 1550–1820. First, I challenge the view that arbitrage between gold and silver in European trade with China was important except for one twenty-year spell. Next, I argue that had China imported gold, its history would have been much the same. I also dispute the idea that the persistence of the silver inflows from 1550 to 1820 implies any persistent disequilibrium, and I maintain that economic theory can easily accommodate the view that the inflow of silver into China sponsored growth in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-131
Number of pages27
JournalOpen Economies Review
Volume30
Issue number1
Early online date28 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Silver flows into China 1550–1820
  • Silver/gold exchange rates
  • Transaction costs in international trade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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