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David Greasley

Martin Chick, Eoin McLaughlin and Les Oxley contributed information to this In Memoriam and bear responsibility for errors and omissions.

David Greasley was born in 1951 in Clowne, a coal-mining centre in the Bolsover district of Derbyshire. He was educated at the University of Liverpool, from which he graduated with a degree in Economics in 1972, before proceeding to postgraduate work in Economic History at the same institution. In 1975, he was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Economic History at the University of Edinburgh. The department, whose senior members at the time included Michael Flinn, Berrick Saul and Christopher Smout, appointed David so as to augment substantially the department’s quantitative and econometric skills. Four years later, in 1979, David completed his Ph.D. thesis on the application of machine-cutting technology in the early twentieth century British coal-mining industry.

In his early years at Edinburgh, David both developed his existing research on the coal-mining industry with articles appearing in Explorations in Economic History, Economica and the Journal of Economic History, and also broadened his research interests and publications on topics such as wages, income and productivity. David’s last publication on coal mining was for a volume on the political economy of nationalisation, edited by Bob Millward and John Singleton. By the mid-1990s, David’s research interests shifted, as he began to work with his Edinburgh economics colleague Les Oxley, to consider both the discontinuities and patterns in economic and industrial growth, including new interpretations of the timing of the British Industrial Revolution. With Jakob Madsen, David also developed further his interests in natural resource economics, especially in relation to the economic history of Australia. With Les, David published widely-cited, pioneering work on the application of time series methods to long-run historical data, as well as breaking new ground in the comparative economic history of the Antipodes. It was in 1995 that ‘Australia’ appeared for the first time in the title of a journal article (Economic Record), and increasingly comparisons of Australia, Canada , New Zealand and the USA became a characteristic feature of David’s work. With Les, David revitalised research on New Zealand economic history with a series of contributions on the ‘Pastoral boom . . .” published in the Economic History Review, 2009; “Regime shift and fast recovery on the periphery . . .” Economic History Review, 2002; “Refrigeration and Distribution: New Zealand Land Prices and real Wages, Australian Economic History Review 2005; and “Knowledge, Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Development . . .,” Explorations in Economic History, 2010. These and other papers have now become standard references in new texts on New Zealand economic history. Fittingly, one of David’s last publications, on the industrialisation of Australia’s natural capital, appeared in the Cambridge Economic History of Australia.

Both before and after his retirement in 2015, David was also heavily involved in a research project with Nick Hanley and others on the long-run analysis of well-being and sustainable development, with carbon continuing to figure at the end of his work as it had at the start. David and co-authors published several papers in the environmental economics field journals on the topic of long-run sustainability. This firstly required historical estimation of “genuine savings,” or “adjusted net savings,” a metric of national savings that takes account of degradation of natural capital that the World Bank has published since the 1990s. The longest series was constructed for Britain for the period 1765-2000. Other series were published for the United States and Germany, and later for Australia. With these new long-run estimates of sustainable development, the papers then tested if the indicators of sustainable development were good predictors of future well-being using the historical record. The original article on Britain, “Testing genuine savings as a forward-looking indicator of future well-being in the (very) long run,” was published in Journal of Environmental Economics & Management and tested genuine savings as a predictor of future changes in real wages. The headline finding was the importance of including measures of technological improvements for long-run sustainability. This study was followed by a comparison of different conceptual ways of measuring sustainable development from flows (investment) and stocks (wealth) and bottom-up versus top-down measures, the study “Historical wealth accounts for Britain,” was published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy. A further paper, “Counting carbon,” published in the Scandinavian Economic History Review, addressed the issue of how to quantify the damage costs of carbon dioxide over time.

A comparative component was brought to the analysis with a three country study of Britain, Germany and the United States: “Empirical Testing of Genuine Savings as an Indicator of Weak Sustainability . . .” was published in Environmental and Resource Economics. The final study built on the three country study with a direct comparison to Australia. It applied a counterfactual analysis to Australian economic history (‘how much better off would the average Australian be if Australia had followed the Hartwick Rule’) by applying the concepts from environmental economics and comparing Australia with OECD peers. The study, “Australia: a land of missed opportunities,” was published in Environment and Development Economics.  It showed how Australia had consistently saved less than OECD peers and this had implications in terms of “lost opportunities.” In all, David published 55 peer-reviewed articles in leading economic and economic history journals, five book chapters, and one edited volume.

In addition to his research, David also picked up more than his fair share of teaching and administration. In teaching, first-year students were introduced to the merits, or otherwise, of Benjamin and Kochin on benefit-wage ratios, while third- and fourth-year students met the work of Milton Friedman, Anna Schwartz, Martha Olney, and others in David’s comparative courses on economic development in the U.K. and U.S. In time, further courses, on “New Zealand and the World Economy, 1870-1939” and “Transforming Australia: Economic Development since 1788,” were added. David’s teaching was popular, conscientious and stimulating, which was especially impressive given the often technical nature of what was being taught. As a mentor and supervisor to postgraduates and colleagues, David generously taught as much by example as by instruction.

As Head of the Department of Economic and Social History between 2001 and 2004, David’s integrity and competence shone. High administrative competence brought its usual unsought rewards, such as David being charged with co-ordinating the Teaching Programme Review for History, before being chosen as the Director of Research in the newly-established School of History, Classics and Archaeology from 2008. In amongst these administrative commitments, David found time to play a major role in bringing the Sixth World Congress of Cliometrics to Edinburgh in 2008. Happily, in 2007, David’s academic achievements were recognised with his promotion to a personal chair in Economic History. With an established international reputation, and a seemingly ever-growing interest in New Zealand, David would self-mockingly complain at his folly in choosing an area of research which involved some of the world’s longest air journeys. Characteristically, he would omit to mention that one such visit had included giving an Academic Linkages Guest Lecture on “Globalisation and Wages” to the New Zealand Treasury in 2003.

David will be much missed, and his death on 12th January 2021 at the age of 69 was all too premature. Quiet, knowledgeable and incisive, David was someone to whom you could go for advice on administrative problems, or to discover, usually in about two minutes, what was fundamentally wrong with your latest favourite hypothesis. A gentle, kind and unassuming scholar, it was a privilege to know him.

David Greasley Bibliography:


  1. David Greasley, Eoin McLaughlin, Nick Hanley, and Les Oxley (2017). Australia: a Land of Missed Opportunities? Environment and Development Economics, 22, 674-698
  2. Greasley, D. and J. B. Madsen, (2016), The Rise and Fall of Exceptional Australian Incomes, 1800-2010, Australian Economic History Review, 57(3), 263-290.
  3. Nick Hanley, Les Oxley, David Greasley, Eoin McLaughlin, Matthias Blum (2016). Empirical Testing of Genuine Savings as an Indicator of Weak Sustainability: A three-Country Analysis of Long-Run Trends, Environmental and Resource Economics, 63, 313-38
  4. Testing genuine savings as a forward-looking indicator of future well-being over the (very) long-run (2014) Greasley, D., Hanley, N., Kunnas, J., McLaughlin, E., Oxley, L. & Warde, P., In: Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. 67, 2, p. 171-188
  5. Kunnas, J., McLaughlin, E., Hanley, N., Greasley, D., Oxley, L. & Warde, P., (2014) Counting carbon: Historic emissions from fossil fuels, long-run measures of sustainable development and carbon debt, In: Scandinavian Economic History Review. 62, 3, p. 243-265
  6. McLaughlin, E., Hanley, N., Greasley, D., Kunnas, J., Oxley, L. & Warde, P., (2014), Historical wealth accounts for Britain: Progress and puzzles in measuring the sustainability of economic growth In: Oxford Review of Economic Policy. 30, 1, p. 44-69
  7. Greasley, D., Madsen, J. B. & Wohar, M. E., (2013). Long-run growth empirics and new challenges for unified theory, In: Applied Economics. 45, 28, p. 3973-3987 15
  8. Greasley, D. & Madsen, J. B., (2013) The housing slump and the great depression in the USA , In: Cliometrica. 7, 1, p. 15-35 21
  9.  Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., (2011), Cliometrics and Time Series Econometrics: Some Theory and Applications, in Economics and History: Surveys in Cliometrics. Wiley, Vol. 24. p. 217-287
  10. Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., (2010), Clio and the Economist: Making Historians Count In: Journal of Economic Surveys. 24, 5, p. 755-774
  11. Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., (2010). Cliometrics and Time Series Econometrics: Some Theory and Applications, In: Journal of Economic Surveys. 24, 5, p. 970-1042
  12. Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., (2010) Knowledge, Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Development: Lessons from New Zealand 1861-1939, In: Explorations in Economic History. 47, 4, p. 443-59
  13. Greasley, D. & Madsen, J. B., (2010). Curse and Boon: Natural Resources and Long Run Growth in currently Rich Economies, In: Economic Record. 86, 274, p. 311-328
  14. Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., (2009). The Pastoral Boom, the Rural Land Market, and Long Swings in New Zealand Economic Growth 1873-1939 In: Economic History Review. 62, 2, p. 324-349
  15.  Greasley, D., Inwood, K., & Singleton, J. (2007). Factor Prices and Income Distribution in Less Industrialized Countries 1870-1939, In: Australian Economic History Review. 47, p. 1-5
  16.  Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2007). Patenting, Intellectual Property Rights and Sectoral Outputs in Industrial Revolution Britain, 1780-1851, In: Journal of Econometrics. 139, p. 340-54
  17. Greasley, D. (2006) A Tale of Two Peripheries: Real Wages in Denmark and New Zealand 1875-1939 , In: Scandinavian Economic History Review. 54, p. 116-136
  18. Greasley, D., and Madsen J. (2006). Employment and Total Factor Productivity Convergence, In: Kyklos. 59 (4), p. 527-555
  19. Greasley, D., and Madsen J. (2006). Investment and Uncertainty: Precipitating the Great Depression in the USA, In: Economica. 73 (291), p. 393-412
  20. Greasley, D., & Oxley L. (2005). Refrigeration and Distribution: New Zealand Land Prices and Real Wages in the Refrigeration Era 1873-1939, In: Australian Economic History Review. 45, p. 23-44
  21. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2004). Globalization and Real Wages in New Zealand, 1873-1913, In: Explorations in Economic History. 41, p. 26-47
  22. Greasley, D., and Madsen J. (2003). The Household Balance Sheet, Credit, and Uncertainty at the Onset of the Great Depression in the USA, Research in Economic History. Field, A. (ed.). Blackwell Publishing Ltd, p. 55-77
  23.  In the presence of structural change and non-linearities, Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2002), Regime Shifts and Fast Recovery on the Periphery: New Zealand in the 1930s In: Economic History Review. 55 (4), p. 697-720
  24. Greasley, D., Madsen J., & Oxley, L. (2001). Income Uncertainty and Consumer spending during the Great Depression, In: Explorations in Economic History. 38 (2), p. 225-51
  25. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2000) British industrialization, 1815-1860, a disaggregate time series perspective, In: Explorations in Economic History. 37, p. 98-119
  26. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2000) Measuring New Zealand’s GDP, 1865-1933: a cointegration-based approach, In: Review of Income and Wealth. 46, p. 351-68
  27. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2000) Outside the club: New Zealand’s economic growth, 1870-1993 In: Review of Applied Economics. 14, p. 173-92
  28. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (2000) Real wages in Australia and Canada, 1870-1913: globalization versus productivity, In: Australian Economic History Review. 40, p. 178-98
  29. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1999) Growing apart? Australia and New Zealand growth experiences, 1870-1913, In: New Zealand Economic Papers. 33(2), p. 1-14
  30. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1999) International evidence on shock persistence in the presence of structural change and non-linearities, In: Applied Economics. 31, p. 499-507
  31. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1999) A Nordic Convergence Club? Applied Economics Letters, 6, 157-60.
  32.  Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1998) A tale of two dominions: comparing the macroeconomic records of Australia and Canada since 1870 In: Economic History Review. 35, p. 294-318
  33. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1998) Causality and the first Industrial Revolution, In: Industrial and Corporate Change. 7, p. 33-47
  34.  Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1998) Comparing British and American economic and industrial performance, 1860-1993, a time series perspective , In: Explorations in Economic History. 35, p. 171-95 25 p.
  35. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1998) Vector autoregression, cointegration, and casuality: testing for the causes of the British Industrial Revolution In: Applied Economics. 30, p. 1387-97
  36. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1997) Unit roots and British industrial growth, 1923-92 , In: Manchester School of economic and social studies. 65, 2, p. 192-212 21 p.
  37. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1997) Convergence in GDP per capita and real wages: some results for Australia and the UK, In: Mathematics and Computers in Simulation. 43, p. 429-36
  38.  Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1997) Endogenous growth or big bang: two views of the first Industrial Revolution, In: Journal of Economic History. 57, p. 935-49
  39.  Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1997) Segmenting the countours: Australian economic growth, 1828-1913, In: Australian Economic History Review. 65, p. 39-53.
  40. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1998) Shock persistence and structural change, In: Economic Record. 73, p. 348-62
  41. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1996) Discontinuities in competitiveness: the impact of the First World War on British industry, In: Economic History Review. 49, p. 83-101
  42. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1996) Explaining the United States’ industrial growth, 1860-1991: endogenous versus exogenous models , In: Bulletin of Economic Research. 48, p. 65-82
  43. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1996) Technological epochs and British industrial production, 1700-1992, In: Scottish Journal of Political Economy. 43, p. 258-74
  44. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1995) A time series perspective on convergence: Australia, the UK, and the USA since 1870In: Economic Record. 71, p. 279-90
  45. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1995) Balanced versus compromise estimates of UK GDP, 1870-1913, In: Explorations in Economic History. p. 262-72
  46. Greasley, D., & Oxley, L. (1994) Rehabilitation sustained: The Industrial Revolution as a macroeconomic epoch, In: Economic History Review. p. 760-8 9 p.
  47. Greasley, D. (1993). Economies of scale in British coalmining between the wars. In: Economic History Review. p. 155-9
  48. Greasley, D. (1993). The British economy since 1945, In: Journal of Economic Surveys. p. 283-92
  49. Greasley, D. (1992). The market for South Wales coal, 1874-1913, In: Journal of European Economic History. p. 135-52
  50. Greasley, D. (1992). The stationary of British economic and productivity growth, In: Journal of Applied Econometrics. 7, p. 203-9
  51. Greasley, D. (1990). Fifty years of coalmining productivity: the records of the British coal industry before 1939, In: Journal of Economic History. p. 877-902
  52. Greasley, D. (1989). British wages and income, 1856-1913: a revision, In: Explorations in Economic History. p. 248-59
  53. Greasley, D. (1986). British economic growth: the paradox of the 1880s and the timing of the climacteric, In: Explorations in Economic History. p. 416-44
  54. Greasley, D. (1985). Wage rates and work intensity in the South Wales coalfield 1874-191, In: Economica. p. 383-9
  55. Greasley, D. (1982). The Diffusion of Machine-Cutting in the British Coal Industry 1902 – 1938 Greasley, In: Explorations in Economic History. p. 246 – 68 23 p.

Edited books:

  1. Economics and History: Surveys in Cliometrics Greasley, D. & Oxley, L., 2011, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. 298 p.

Book chapters

  1. Greasley, D. (2015). Industrialising Australia’s natural capital, The Cambridge Economic History of Australia. Ville, S. & Withers, G. (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 150-177
  2. McLaughlin, E., Hanley, N., Greasley, D., Kunnas, J., Oxley, L. & Warde, P., (2017) Historical wealth accounts for Britain: Progress and puzzles in measuring the sustainability of economic growth in Kirk Hamilton and Cameron Hepburn (eds). National Wealth: What is Missing, Why it Matters. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Greasley, D. & Oxley, L. (1999). Competitiveness and growth: new perspectives on the late-Victorian and Edwardian economy, In Britains Decline?. M Dintenfass, JP. D. (ed.). London, p. 65-84
  4. Greasley, D., (1998), Integration of Commodity Markets in History (Proceedings of the Twelfth International Economic History Congress, Seville, 1998). Nunez, C. (ed.). p. 161-75
  5. Greasley, D. (1993). The Coal Industry: Images and Realities on the Road to Nationalization, In Political Economy of Nationalization. Cambridge University Press, p. 37-64