Economic historians have perennially addressed the intriguing
question of comparative development, asking why some countries
develop much faster and further than others. Focusing primarily on
Europe between 1914 and 1939, this present volume explores the
development of thirteen countries that could be said to be
categorised as economically backward during this period: Albania,
Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Yugoslavia. These countries
are linked, not only in being geographically on Europe's periphery,
but all shared high agrarian components and income levels much
lower than those enjoyed in western European countries. The study
shows that by 1918 many of these countries had structural
characteristics which either relegated them to a low level of
development or reflected their economic backwardness,
characteristics that were not helped by the hostile economic
climate of the interwar period. It explores, region by region, how
their progress was checked by war and depression, and how the
effects of political and social factors could also be a major
impediment to sustained progress and modernisation. For example, in
many cases political corruption and instability, deficient
administrations, ethnic and religious diversity, agrarian
structures and backwardness, population pressures, as well as
international friction, were retarding factors. In all this study
offers a fascinating insight into many areas of Europe that are
often ignored by economists and historians. It demonstrates that
these countries were by no means a lost cause, and that their
post-war performances show the latent economic potential that most
harboured. By providing an insight into the development of Europe's
'periphery' a much more rounded and complete picture of the
continent as a whole is achieved.
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