People Political Sciences

An ERC Grant to Tamas Vonyo for a Project on the Economic Consequences of WWI in Central Europe

, by Fabio Todesco
At the crossroads of economic and business history, the project will investigate the consequences of the war independent from those of the postwar political settlement

Ever since the 1919 John Maynard Keynes classic, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, the legacies of the peace treaties after WWI have been the topic of hot debate. The disintegration of the Habsburg Empire has long been blamed for the economic troubles of nations states that emerged on its ruins, but this effect has never really been examined and was not carefully distinguished from the direct outcomes of the war. This is the gap that Tamás Vonyó, Assistant Professor at Bocconi's Department of Social and Political Sciences, wants to fill with his SpoilsofWAR (Spoils of War: The Economic Consequences of the Great War in Central Europe) research project, which has been assigned a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant worth €1.49mln. The grant will be hosted by Bocconi's Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy.

«The world wars had a monumental impact on economic development. They caused unprecedented physical destruction and dislocated economies, but they also mobilized new resources and built new capacities. The consequences of the wars were transformational», Prof. Vonyó says, «but research in quantitative economic history into these legacies focused almost exclusively on World War II. This is mainly due to the much greater availability of economic statistics with the development of modern national accounts from the 1930s».

«The impact of the war can be traced both in the geography of economic activity and in the business structure of different industries». Prof. Vonyó turned back to a unique dataset, all but forgotten, that will help him examine both of these effects. «With the confidential catalogue of all contractors of the Imperial War Ministry in Austria-Hungary, 19,000 firms in total, we can map the allocation of war spending by region and industry. We can link this information both to regional economic data to highlight changes in occupational structure and incomes across the war and to the annually published statements of industrial corporations to trace the formation and transformation of business networks. Both spatial concentration and diversification were key strategies adopted by big industry in the war economy, with potentially lasting legacies.»

The research project integrates the toolkits of economic history and business history and Bocconi, says Prof. Vonyò, «is one of a few European centers where both disciplines are thoroughly researched, which makes it the perfect place for SpoilsofWAR».

Tamás Vonyó's research focus is the history of economic growth and industrial development in modern Germany and Eastern Europe, and on the economic history of the world wars. He has published many scholarly articles on these subjects and Cambridge University Press has recently published his monograph, The Economic Consequences of the War: West Germany's Growth Miracle after 1945. He obtained his PhD at the University of Oxford and was lecturer and assistant professor at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences before joining Bocconi in 2014.

The ERC was established in 2007 by the European Commission in order to promote basic research all over the continent, discriminating only on the basis of project quality. It assigns three kinds of grants to academics in different stages of their career - starting, consolidator and advanced – on a purely competitive way, without imposing specific topics, provided that projects have a scientific and social impact.

Professor Vonyó's is the 31st ERC Grant hosted by Bocconi since the inception of the European program, in 2007.