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873. Human capital in Europe, 1830s -1930s: towards a new spatial dataset

Working Paper n. 873 - Marzo 2022

Gabriele Cappelli


Leonardo Ridolfi

DEPS, USiena

MIchelangelo Vasta


Johannes Westberg

University of Groningen, Department of History and Philosophy of Education


The literature on the causes of economic growth has emphasized the major role played by human capital accumulation. This survey shows that education and human capital are at the centre stage of the historical literature on industrialization and long-term economic development. Our contribution is threefold: first, we review the literature on the determinants of educational levels focusing on Europe in the period 1830 – 1930. We find that the lack of fine-grain spatial and (at the same time) harmonized data is preventing research on some important aspects of rising education. Secondly, we provide a preliminary taxonomy of European school acts and reforms in the 19th and early-20th century. Finally, we present the first version of a dataset under construction, which aims at providing spatial data covering gross enrolment rates and literacy across European regions from c. 1830 to 1930. Our preliminary results show that, in c. 1850, educational clusters appear to have often crossed national borders. By contrast, the effect of national institutions and regulations seems to have become an important determinant of schooling (and literacy) rates on the eve of the 20th century.


Education, literacy, Europe, regional, comparative.

Jel Codes

N30, O43, O52.