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Planet Money

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The economy, explained, with stories and surprises. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at <em>Planet Money</em>. People seem to like it.

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#89 Planet Money: Economics For Medieval Chinese Peasants

September 4th, 2009

Episode 182 of 913 episodes

We've been talking lately with medieval historian Philip Daileader about how very little fun it was to live in 12th century France. Now, thanks to a nudge from listener Alan Munter, we're looking at the state of economic life in Asia. Historian Kenneth Pomeranz says pre-industrial China was no picnic, either. Life expectancy in the lower Yangtze River Valley was probably about 35 in the year zero, Pomeranz says, and it was probably about the same in 1800. At least from the 1,000 on, people began spending more time at work, but without much to show for it. Yet Pomeranz, author of the The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, says it was one of the best places on the planet for poor people to live until the eve of the industrial revolution.

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