Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 1

Not-so-Natural Experiments in History

Christian Dippel, UCLA, Anderson School of Management, USA, , Bryan Leonard, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability, USA,
Suggested Citation
Christian Dippel and Bryan Leonard (2021), "Not-so-Natural Experiments in History", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 1, pp 1-30.

Publication Date: 10 Jun 2021
© 2021 C. Dippel and B. Leonard
Econometric models,  Political economy,  Political history
Cliometricsnatural experimentsempirical methodology


Login to download a free copy
In this article:
The Historical Contributions of Cliometrics 
Natural Experiments in Cliometrics 
Keeping the "Clio" in Cliometrics 


This paper compares the role of cliometrics — broadly defined to include economics, political science, and other social sciences — before and after the "credibility revolution" of the late 1990s. The contributions of cliometrics that led to the 1993 Nobel Prize were due primarily to a combination of quantification and economic theory with in-depth historical knowledge. After the credibility revolution, much of cliometrics shifted toward "natural experiments," especially in papers published in general-interest journals. We argue that this shift comes with certain trade-offs between statistical and contextual evidence, and that the refereeing process currently makes these trade-offs steeper in historical settings than in other observational-data settings. We also argue, however, that historical settings offer particularly actionable ways of flattening these trade-offs to ensure the "clio" in cliometrics stays alive and well.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special Issue - Theory and Method in HPE: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.