Angus Maddison (1926-2010) is known as the Big Man of Big Data. His research archive at the IISH/NEHA (link is external) has now been made accessible.
For more than sixty years, Maddison collected and analysed data on global economic growth and development from the very earliest times.
He did so in various capacities: as a staff member of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) and its successor the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as a consultant to various government institutions, and, from 1978, as a professor at the Economics Faculty of Groningen University.
He travelled the world, from Pakistan to Ghana, from Brazil to Mongolia, from Guinea to Japan, and was in close contact with some of the world’s leading economists, historians, and statisticians.
Angus Maddison invented the description Chiffrephile to “characterize economists and economic historians, who, like myself, have a strong predilection for quantification”.
For a long time he was a lonely pioneer in the field, but not without success, and he now has countless followers.
In collecting huge quantities of data, his principal aims were to analyse the economic development of advanced capitalist nations, to explain why non-Western countries lagged, and to analyse patterns of global economic development and in particular how regions interacted with one another.
Maddison’s most influential publications include:
- Economic Growth in the West (1964)
- Phases of Capitalist Development (1982)
- Dynamic Forces in Capitalist Development (1991)
- Monitoring the World Economy 1820-1992 (1995)
- Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run (1998)
- The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective (2001)
After his death in 2010, Angus Maddison’s archive (forty boxes) was transferred to the NEHA. His archive includes correspondence, manuscripts and publications, articles, reviews, and files on conferences and lectures. There is also a large amount of mostly handwritten data, arranged by topic and/or country. These data are indispensable to anyone interested in such issues as economic growth and welfare, the reconstruction of National Accounts, social policy, labour markets, education, economic institutions, the spread of technology and innovation, and “proximate” and “ultimate” causes of economic growth.
Maddison’s digital data archive is managed by the Groningen Growth Development Centre (GGDC). Their website also presents extensive information on his life and work.
See also: Matthias Schmelzer, The hegemony of growth. The OECD and the making of the Economic Growth Paradigm (Cambridge University Press 2016).