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Researchers: Medieval England Better Off Than Modern-Day Afghanistan

New research from the University of Warwick finds that England in the late Middle Ages was significantly better off than many of the world's poorest countries today.

ScienceDaily says researchers found that, when "expressed in 1990 international dollars," per capita incomes in medieval England were as high as $1,000. This compares to $249 for Zaire today, $686 for Haiti and $869 for Afghanistan, when also measured in 1990 dollars.

The surprising findings come in a paper titled British Economic Growth 1270-1870 published by the University of Warwick's Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE). The research portrays a society living above subsistence levels of income:

University of Warwick economist Professor Stephen Broadberry, who led the research said:

"Our work sheds new light on England's economic past, revealing that per capita incomes in medieval England were substantially higher than the "bare bones subsistence" levels experienced by people living in poor countries in our modern world. The majority of the British population in medieval times could afford to consume what we call a "respectability basket" of consumer goods that allowed for occasional luxuries. By the late Middle Ages, the English people were in a position to afford a varied diet including meat, dairy produce and ale, as well as the less highly processed grain products that comprised the bulk of the "bare bones subsistence" diet."