North, Douglass Cecil

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

North, Douglass Cecil

Douglass Cecil North, 1920–2015, American economic historian, b. Cambridge, Mass., Ph.D. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1952. North was on the faculty at the Univ. of Washington, Seattle (1950–83) and Washington Univ., St. Louis (1983–2011, emeritus after 2011). He also was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution (2000–2015). In 1993 North shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science with Robert Fogel for their role in developing cliometrics—the use of economic theory and quantitative techniques to understand economic history; also known as new economic history—and for the increased understanding of process of economic change that their work enabled. With Ronald Coase, he also contributed to the development of "new institutional economics," focusing on the role that institutions and institutional change play in economic development. North also studied early American and European economic growth, productivity in ocean shipping, and the role played by property rights, and later in his long career focused on understanding economic change through the prism of the cognitive and behavioral sciences. Among his works are The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790–1860 (1961), a more traditional but seminal study; Structure and Change in Economic History (1981); Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (1990); and Understanding the Process of Economic Change (2005).

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