Podcast

Economics For Medieval Chinese Peasants

Boy along the Yangtse River i i

Back in medieval times, China's Yangtze River Valley looked like the most likely place for an industrial revolution. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty images hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Parks/AFP/Getty images
Boy along the Yangtse River

Back in medieval times, China's Yangtze River Valley looked like the most likely place for an industrial revolution.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty images

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On today's Planet Money:

We've been talking lately with medieval historian Philip Daileader about how very little fun it was to live in 12th century France.

Now, thanks to a nudge from listener Alan Munter, we're looking at the state of economic life in Asia. Historian Kenneth Pomeranz says pre-industrial China was no picnic, either. Life expectancy in the lower Yangtze River Valley was probably about 35 in the year zero, Pomeranz says, and it was probably about the same in 1800. At least from the year 1,000 on, people began spending more time working, but without much to show for it.

Yet Pomeranz, author of the The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, says it was one of the best places on the planet for poor people to live until the eve of the industrial revolution.

Bonus: After the jump, instant folk art.

Download the podcast; or subscribe. Intro music: Sa Dingding's "Alive." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Flickr.

We got this over the transom from Tecumseh, Michigan:

Instant Folk Art

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