Current and Recent Research Projects

Externally funded projects at the Department of Economic History, LSE

Research is one of the forces driving the intellectual life of the department. Given the composition and international delivery of our staff, research specialisms are extremely wide-ranging, chronologically and geographically. This breadth is reflected in the range of externally funded research projects undertaken by members of the department. 

Royal African Company Networks - Dr Anne Ruderman

Project Website: Royal African Company Networks

Royal African Company Networks is a pilot project designed to explore the possibilities of using computational text analysis and GIS to investigate the correspondence of the Royal African Company, Britain’s late seventeenth-century African trade monopoly. Our project maps over 3,000 letters between the company’s main fort, Cape Coast Castle, in modern-day Ghana and the company’s ‘outforts,’ or smaller holdings on the coast. We then combine mapping with computational text analysis to draw out themes in the correspondence. We hope this project demonstrates the potential of bringing an interdisciplinary approach to historical analysis and serves as a stepping-stone for further exploration.

The Royal African Company Networks pilot project is part of the Visualizing Historical Networks Initiative at Harvard University’s Center for History and Economics.

For more information contact Dr Anne Ruderman
Assistant Professor, Economic History Department, LSE

Narrative Science - Professor Mary Morgan

Research Project Summary 

Principal Investigator: Professor Mary S. Morgan 

The aim of this project is to understand the role of narrative in modern science. Narratives have appeared in many places in the human, social and natural sciences over the past two centuries. They can be found both in accounts of real situations and in simulations of virtual situations, in empirical work and in theorizing. It is clear that narratives have played important roles for scientists well beyond the simple act of reporting. Yet we lack an account of what kinds of thing scientists know from using narrative and how such ‘narrative knowing’ is constituted. Indeed, with the notable exceptions of medicine and evolutionary biology, even the study of those fields’ narratives - as narratives - has been largely ignored by both historians of science and narrative scholars.

What do scientists gain from using narratives, what functions do narratives play? Initial research shows that scientists have used narratives to figure out what fits together with what, and to create coherence amongst the elements in their research.  But the means of such ordering vary - from site to site, and from science to science. Narratives used to explore a path dependent system in nineteenth century biology used a different mode of ordering both from the configuring narratives of mid-twentieth century case studies in sociology, and from the ‘how possibly’ narratives of modern computer-based simulations. Such variety requires a broad project, using many case studies to explore the critical role that scientists’ narratives have played in modern science. Making sense of such variety offers an ambitious challenge. But while there is surely no simple answer to why scientists use narratives, all these notions of narrative ordering do have something in common. They suggest that narratives function not just to describe and report as one might expect, they play a much more important role in answering scientists’s own questions and so - in various ways - in providing scientific explanations.  

This project is funded by the EU, and further details can be found here: Narrative Science Project

For further information and to sign up for the Narrative Science newsletter, please email Dr Dominic Berry:

Children's Growth During A Long-run Health Transition: Britain In International Perspective 1850-1995 - Dr Eric Schneider

Funded by the ESRC, this project seeks to reconstruct the growth pattern of British children from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, to understand how improvements in nutrition, sanitation, and medical knowledge during Britain’s long-run health transition from 1850 onwards influenced children’s growth pattern in terms of height, weight and BMI. The data produced will supply a longer-run perspective on the immediate and intergenerational factors influencing children’s growth in Britain and internationally and indicate how the shift from an unhealthy to more healthy growth pattern took place.

The project is led by Dr. Eric Schneider (, and full details of the project can be found here:

Money markets and trade in early industrialisation: Britain and Japan, 1760–1860 - Professor Janet Hunter

Recent research has indicated that long distance commerce, with its growing need for credit, played a crucial role in the formation and integration of financial markets in early modern Europe. The project will explore this interaction in comparative and global perspective by compiling a data set on the nationwide linkages of financial agents in Britain and Japan for the period 1760-1860, and undertaking the first systematic analysis of nationwide financial and informational flows between metropolitan and provincial agents. The project will make a major contribution to our understanding of the interplay between trade, finance and economic development.

Analysis of the empirical evidence will focus on three main questions: 1. How far were areas engaged in long distance commerce more likely to be linked financially with the metropolis? The data will help identify the timing of, and geographical variations in, the creation of regular financial correspondence between provincial and metropolitan financial agents, and show the density of credit flow between them. 2. To what extent were provincial financiers incentivized to interact with metropolitan financiers by the pressure of growing demands for credit from the local mercantile community? Analysis of the profile data of financial agents will allow us to identify the nature of their businesses, and their relationships with the local mercantile communities through trade specialization, commercial organizations and local regulatory authorities. 3. What were the factors that led metropolitan financiers to enter into regular financial partnerships with provincial agents? The profile data of metropolitan financiers will allow us to examine business size, business and social interactions, and relationships with political authorities.

More details are available here:  Money markets and trade in early industrialisation: Britain and Japan, 1760–1860 

Read Discussion Paper No. 1: Defining Provincial Financial Agents in England and Japan, Mina Ishizu

Economic Outcomes Flowing From The Revolutionary And Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815 - Professor Patrick O'Brien

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust and with support from LSE, a network of European economic historians has been formed to examine contrasts in the economic outcomes and potential for long term development that flowed from the Napoleonic wars for several major European economies (including Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany) their overseas colonies. The network will also create case studies for a major book which aims to exemplify the insights obtained from reciprocal comparisons and the value of research in economics and history based upon collaboration. 

The Lead Investigator is (Patrick O’Brien)  located at LSE. 

Projects Archive