|Publication Date||January 17, 2008|
China?s rural economy was extremely poor; it was stagnant or even declining in per capita terms; and it embodied substantial inequalities of land, tenancy and security?or so conventional wisdom would have it. R.H. Tawney?s bleak observations in the 1930s set the stage for much work on the economic history of the late imperial period in the 1960s and 1970s. However, in the 1990s several important bodies of scholarship have challenged this view. Treating the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first thirty years of the twentieth century, Thomas Rawski and Loren Brandt argue for a substantial degree of growth in agricultural output, rural incomes and living standards. And Kenneth Pomeranz and R. Bin Wong argue that early-modern Chinese agriculture was roughly as productive in 1700 as that of its contemporary European farming, and that the standard of living in the countryside was comparable in China and England. The document reviews these debates and draws some conclusions. 17,000 words.