I grew up in the western Canadian city of Calgary, and have since lived in Scotland, Germany, England, the USA and the Czech Republic. I studied at the Universities of St Andrews, Cambridge, and Chicago, and was a Research Fellow at Trinity College Cambridge. I then taught for 31 years in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge, before moving to the Chichele Professorship of Economic History at All Souls College Oxford in 2020.
I explore the lives of ordinary people in the past and try to explain how poor economies get richer and improve human well-being. I’m particularly interested in how social institutions – the formal and informal constraints on economic activity – shaped economic development in Europe between the Middle Ages and the present day. In recent years my publications have analysed guilds, serfdom, communities, the family, gender, human capital investment, consumption, and state capacity.