Pre-reformation roots of the protestant ethic

Thomas Barnebeck Andersen, Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, Carl-Johan Lars Dalgaard, Paul Richard Sharp

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We hypothesise that cultural appreciation of hard work and thrift, the Protestant ethic according to Max Weber, had a pre-Reformation origin: the Catholic Order of Cistercians. In support, we document an impact from the Order on growth within the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution; English counties that were more exposed to Cistercian monasteries experienced faster productivity growth from the 13th century onwards. Consistent with a cultural influence, this impact is also found after the monasteries were dissolved in the 1530s. Moreover, the values emphasised by Weber are relatively more pervasive in European regions where Cistercian monasteries were located historically.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Economic Journal
Issue number604
Pages (from-to)1756-1793
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


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