ABSTRACT

Introduction During the nineteenth century, the European continent (taken here to include Britain at one extreme in the west to Russia in the east) had experienced substantial economic development. Few countries had failed to be affected in some way by the forces of modern economic growth, which had had their origins in the northwest corner of the continent. As Pollard rightly points out, the development process may be seen as a general European phenomenon transcending national frontiers rather than as something con ned to the geographic boundaries of a few states. On the other hand, economic growth was very uneven in its incidence, although in comparison with more recent times rates of economic growth were modest. The centre of progress was undoubtedly in northwest Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland), whence it spread south and east through the rest of the continent, getting weaker the further it moved from the point of origin. It is true that in the later nineteenth century and through to 1914 the pace of economic change was rapid in some of the lesser developed countries, notably Italy, Austria and Russia. Even so, by the eve of the First World War most of the countries of east and southeast Europe remained backward compared with the northwest. Incomes per head on average in southern and eastern Europe were onehalf or less those in the northwest, and in some cases (for example, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain and Greece), they were but a fraction of those prevailing in the most developed sector of the continent. In fact, an income contour map for Europe would show (with minor exceptions) income contour lines of steadily diminishing strength as one moved south and east from the ‘high pressure’ zone of advanced development.