TCD Researcher Receives European Research Council Grant to Study Trade Policy and Great Depression

Posted on: 11 January 2010

A €1.4 million grant has been awarded to Professor Kevin O’Rourke of the Economics Department in the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy enabling him to research the inter-relationships between trade, trade policy and the Great Depression. Professor O’Rourke is the first Irish-based researcher to receive a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant.

Commenting on his research project, Professor O’Rourke stated: “The economic literature on the Great Depression has focussed on the macroeconomic policies which led to it, with trade being relegated to a minor role in most previous studies. We, therefore, know remarkably little about the extent to which international commodity markets disintegrated during the period. Furthermore, very little is known about the causes of the slump in trade, and the role of protectionism, and about the consequences of interwar protection for employment and growth in the short and long run”.

ERC Advanced Investigator Grants allow exceptional established research leaders in any field of science, engineering and scholarship to pursue frontier research of their choice. They aim to encourage risk-taking and interdisciplinarity and support pioneering research projects.

Professor O’Rourke’s five-year research project will explore the short run inter-relationships between output and employment, trade, and trade policy during the Great Depression. It will also place the event in the longer run context of the gradual spread of industry from the European and North American core to the European periphery and the rest of the world.

The project will compile a large-scale online database available to other scholars including primary data from national and international statistical sources, for example, the League of Nations. In addition, it will include data produced subsequently by economic historians: on inter alia trade, trade policy, industrial output, and commodity and factor prices, for 1870-1960.

The trade, output and policy data will be disaggregated by sector, allowing a thorough assessment of the role of policy. The data will be analysed using standard economic techniques, but since the political and geopolitical consequences of such events are crucial in the long run, a more qualitative historical analysis will also be provided.