This book evolved over the years from the lectures I have given and give to my students at the Department of Economics in Copenhagen. I have, however, attempted to write a book for a wider audience who are searching for a very concise introduction to European economic history which is in tune with recent research. I make use of a few basic and simple economic tools which turn out to be very effective in the interpretation of history. The book offers a panoramic view rather than close-ups. However, the analytical framework will be useful in further studies of the specialized literature. For readers with little background knowledge in economics I provide a glossary defining key concepts, which are marked in bold, for example barter. Economic ideas demanding more attention are explained in the text or in appendices.
This is a work of synthesis, but it attempts to give challenging and new insights. I am indebted to generations of economic historians as well as to a great many of my contemporaries. That normally shows itself in endless footnotes, which not only interrupt the narrative flow but also drown the general historical trends amidst all the details. Instead, I have chosen to end each chapter with a selective list of references which is also a suggestion for further reading. Authors I am particularly influenced by are referred to in the main text.
A large number of colleagues have guided me. Cormac Ó Gráda has as usual been a very stimulating critic and Paul Sharp has not only saved me from embarrassing grammatical errors but is also the co-author of two chapters. I would also like to thank Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Bodil Ejrnæs, Giovanni Federico, Christian Groth, Tim Guinnane, Ingrid Henriksen, Derek Keene, Markus Lampe, Barbro Nedstam and Jacob Weisdorf for helpful comments and suggestions.
Mette Bjarnholt was my research assistant during the initial phase of the project and Marc Klemp and Mekdim D. Regassa in the final stage and they have all been enthusiastic and good to have around.