By Lexor Adams
This week in our series examining the Imperium of Man and Dark Ages we decided to look at Rome’s collapse. Primarily from the lens of how long it took Western Europe to recover from the Dark Age that ensued.
Our standard disclaimers...this post is heavily based on academic’s studies/assumptions. If their numbers are wrong, so are ours. That said, let’s get into it.
Our analysis began with a look at Rome’s GDP per capita at its peak. We used the Scheidel/Friesen (Stanford and UT professors) estimates for the year 150AD. In 1990 International Dollars they put Roman GDP per capita at 620. Assuming this is the GDP per capita at the peak of Roman Civilization, to determine the time it took civilization to recover from the Dark Ages that followed Rome’s collapse we need to find when GDP per capita in the same geographic area returned to this level.
We looked at the countries which arose from Rome’s provinces.
Based on this, we decided to use the countries Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK to come up with a GDP per capita comparison post Roman Dark Ages. (Belgium was excluded due to a significantly higher GDP in estimates for the latter years.) Using the Maddison Project Database (a project that estimates historical economic data) we looked at the GDP per capita for the listed countries in the years 1000 and 1500. These numbers were also in 1990 International Dollars so we can make a direct comparison between them and the Scheidel/Friesen estimate. We assumed a linear rate of growth from 1000 to 1500 and used a simple (non-weighted) average of the countries. The average for 1000 was $426 and the average for 1500 was $774 GDP per capita.
We used the Excel trend formula to avoid doing math by hand. But, doing the math by hand would have yielded the same result. Essentially a linear equation was created based on the 1000 and 1500 year numbers. This equation was then solved for $620 to see which year in this range the GDP per capita returned to the peak Roman GDP level.
The resulting year is 1279. Based on our estimates it took 1129 years for Western Europe’s GDP per capita to return to the level it was at the height of the Roman Empire. Admittedly there are a number of assumptions made in our analysis. The most obvious assumption is that the GDP per capita used for the Roman Empire is three hundred years before the western half collapsed in 476AD. With this constraint we had to shift our analysis to how long did it take for Western Europe to return to an assumed peak GDP per capita in the Roman Empire. 150AD was still within the Pax Romana time period (Roman Peace) so it’s unlikely there would be a higher GDP per capita in the empire for any extended length of time after the Pax Romana.
In our next article for the series we will be putting the Imperium of Man under the microscope. What is the size of their economy? How far has humanity fallen since its spacefaring Golden Age? But most importantly, how can the Imperium recover?