Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth
Instructor: J. Leach
You would expect the three-ﬁeld system to almost immediately replace the
two-ﬁeld system but alas it did not. This demonstrates that no one technology
is the killer technology, one technology alone can’t bring about sustained
economic growth, which technology you use depends on relative input scarcity.
The kind of innovations that occurred in the Industrial Revolution were
possible because of the relative factor prices.
The Rest of the World
Spain had characteristics very much like many Arab/Middle Eastern nations
including climate and culture. Islamic peoples had brought silkworms from
China to the Sierra Nevada mountains and for a while Spain was a major
world producer of silk.
Despite the constant battles between the Christians and the Muslims there
was a robust trade between the groups. The Islamics captured Chinese paper
makers and as a result paper making technology spread throughout the Islamic
The collapse of the caliphate ruling Spain allowed both the Christians and
the Berbers to attack Spain from North and South, respectively. By 1350 the
Christians managed to defeat the Arabs and the Berbers and control most
of Spain. It takes until 1492 for the Europeans to capture the last Islamic
foothold in Europe.
1 Spain’s Decline
One of the causes of Spain’s economic decline was the failure of trading in
two main goods: furs and slaves. It was considered unethical to make a slave
out of a person who was the same religion as you but since the Slavics had no
religion they made perfect slaves for both the Muslims and Christians. Now
that the Slavics had been conquered and converted to Christianity they could
no longer be taken as slaves by Europeans and this causes a decline in trade
Ultimately the Norsemen discovered they could reach the Middle East by
moving across the rivers in the interior of Europe. Once they ﬁgured out this
route they had no need for Spanish intermediaries as they could now trade
directly with the Arabs. This cut down on the size of the fur trade that went
through Spain and also greatly cut into their trade volumes and wealth.