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Recession in the Dark Ages

24 December 2009

I just read a fascinating article in the Financial Times about recession in fifth century Britain and how it compares with the recession that we are currently in. Here is a excerpt:
“We can take some cheer from this sad story – so far our own problems pale into insignificance. But Schadenfreude is never a very satisfying emotion, and in this case it would be decidedly misplaced. The reason the Romano-British economy collapsed so dramatically should give us pause for thought. Almost certainly the suddenness and the catastrophic scale of the crash were caused by the levels of sophistication and specialisation reached by the economy in Roman times. The Romano-British population had grown used to buying their pottery, nails, and other basic goods from specialist producers, based often many miles away, and these producers in their turn relied on widespread markets to sustain their specialised production. When insecurity came in the fifth century, this impressive house of cards collapsed, leaving a population without the goods they wanted and without the skills and infrastructure needed to produce them locally. It took centuries to reconstruct networks of specialisation and exchange comparable to those of the Roman period.”

The whole article is worth the time. It can be found, if you are interested, at:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4b44d88e-ef39-11de-86c4-00144feab49a.html

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