Figuring out: the spread of Hindu-Arabic numerals in the European tradition of practical mathematics (13th-16th centuries)
Raffaele Danna ()
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Raffaele Danna: University of Cambridge, https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/directory/raffaele-danna
No 35, Working Papers from Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge
The paper contributes to the literature focusing on the role of ideas, practices and human capital in pre-modern European economic development. It argues that studying the spread of Hindu-Arabic numerals among European practitioners allows to open up a perspective on a progressive transmission of useful knowledge from the commercial revolution to the early modern period. The analysis is based on an original database recording detailed information on over 1200 texts, both manuscript and printed. This database provides the most detailed reconstruction available of the European tradition of practical arithmetic from the late 13th to the end of the 16th century. It can be argued that this is the tradition which drove the adoption of Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe. The dataset is analysed with statistical and spatial tools. Since the spread of these texts is grounded on inland patterns, the evidence suggests that a continuous transmission of useful knowledge may have played a role during the shift of the core of European trade from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Keywords: Hindu-Arabic numerals; Useful Knowledge; Human capital; Numeracy; Commercial Revolution; Pre-modern European economic development; Bill of exchange; Capabilities and skills (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N33 N00 J24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 10,876 words
Date: 2019-06-14, Revised 2019-08-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-gro and nep-his
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Published in Cambridge Working Paper in Economic & Social History, No. 35
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:cmh:wpaper:35
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