From the Great Divergence to South–South Divergence: New comparative horizons in global economic history

Ewout Frankema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Great Divergence debate has been the leading conversation in economic history for the past 25 years. This review article explores new comparative horizons in global economic history. I argue that questions of South–South Divergence form a logical and timely extension to the Great Divergence research agenda. Asia's economic renaissance did not only put an end to a century-spanning process of widening global income disparities, it also set a new process of divergence within the global south in motion. Deeper understandings of the historical nature and origins of this transition are pertinent in light of the increasing demographic and economic weight of the global south. South–south comparisons also offer an opportunity to counter the dominance of western-centered and north–south perspectives and incentivize the development of new approaches and theories that go beyond mainstream concepts designed by development economists and political scientists. I argue that these novel approaches will have to grapple with the opportunities and constraints to “late” development being shaped by the quadruple challenge of vast technology gaps, limited state autonomy, global competition, and rapidly closing land and resource frontiers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Surveys
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jan 2024


  • colonialism
  • economic development
  • global economic history
  • Great Divergence
  • industrialization
  • South–South Divergence


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