• · “Eight centuries of global real rates, R-G, and the ‘suprasecular’ decline, 1311-2018”.


Bank of England SWP 845, Jan. 2020.

JMP version, Nov. 2021. Appendix and data replication material.


Data underlying Bank of England, SWP 845 (January 2020 version 1.2).

With recourse to archival, printed primary, and secondary sources, this paper reconstructs global real interest rates on an annual basis going back to the 14th century, covering 78% of advanced economy GDP over time. I show that across successive monetary and fiscal regimes, and a variety of asset classes, real interest rates have not been ‘stable’, and that since the major monetary upheavals of the late middle ages, a trend decline between 0.6–1.6 basis points per annum has prevailed. A gradual increase in real negative‑yielding rates in advanced economies over the same horizon is identified, despite important temporary reversals such as the 17th Century Crisis. Against their long‑term context, currently depressed sovereign real rates are in fact converging ‘back to historical trend’ — a trend that makes narratives about a ‘secular stagnation’ environment entirely misleading, and suggests that — irrespective of particular monetary and fiscal responses — real rates could soon enter permanently negative territory. I also posit that the return data here reflects a substantial share of ‘non‑human wealth’ over time: the resulting R-G series derived from this data show a downward trend over the same timeframe: suggestions about the ‘virtual stability’ of capital returns, and the policy implications advanced by Piketty (2014) are in consequence equally unsubstantiated by the historical record.


  • Book project: "Eight centuries of Global Real Interest Rates, 1311-2018" (under contract with Yale University Press).





We present a new database of banking-crisis interventions since the 13th century. The database includes 1886 interventions in 20 categories across 138 countries, covering interventions during all of the crises identified in the main banking-crisis chronologies, while also cataloguing a large number of interventions outside of those crises. The data show a gradual shift over the past centuries from the traditional interventions of a lender-of-last-resort, suspensions of convertibility, and bank holidays, towards a much more prominent role for capital injections and sweeping guarantees of bank liabilities. Furthermore, intervention frequencies and sizes suggest that the crisis problem in the financial sector has indeed reached an apex during the post-Bretton Woods era – but that such trends are part of a more deeply entrenched development that saw global intervention frequencies and sizes gradually rise since at least the late 17th century.



  • "Central Bank balance sheet expansions and the macroeconomy, 1587-2020" (with Moritz Schularick, Niall Ferguson, and Martin Kornejew), Nov. 2021 version.

This paper analyzes the evolution and uses of central bank balance sheets over the past 400 years. We first show that while central bank assets relative to output have risen to historic proportions, the share of government debt held by central banks and the volume of central bank assets relative to the size of the financial sector both remain far from unprecedented. We also document the gradual shift of event triggers for central bank asset purchases, from geopolitical financial instability triggers. We demonstrate several applications of the data to present debates, including a long-run assessment of "fiscal dominance" dynamics. Have central bank interventions been successful in reducing the economic cost of financial crises? We propose a novel identification strategy to show that balance sheet operations are indeed an effective tool to reduce the immediate economic fallout of financial crises, by raising inflation rates, real income growth, and bank lending. However, there is also evidence that such short- and medium-term benefits come at the cost of higher longer-run financial crisis risks.

  • "Real Interest Rates and Risk at the Third Millennium" (with Kenneth S. Rogoff), work-in-progress.