Journal of Economic History


Resolving the Anglo-German Industrial Productivity Puzzle, 1895–1935: A Response to Professor Ritschl


a1 Professor, Department of Economics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom, and Coordinator of the Economic History Initiative at the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London. Email:

a2 Heisenberg-Fellow, Max-Planck-Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse 10, 53113 Bonn, Germany. Email:

This response offers a critical appraisal of the claim of Albrecht Ritschl to have found a possible resolution to what he calls the Anglo-German industrial productivity puzzle, which arose as the result of a new industrial production index produced in an earlier paper by the same author. Projection back from a widely accepted 1935/36 benchmark using the Ritschl index showed German industrial labor productivity in 1907 substantially higher than in Britain. This presented a puzzle for at least two reasons. First, other comparative information from the pre—World War I period, such as wages, seems difficult to square with much higher German labor productivity at this time. Second, a direct benchmark estimate produced by Stephen Broadberry and Carsten Burhop, using production census information for Britain and industrial survey material of similar quality for Germany, suggested broadly equal labor productivity in 1907. Broadberry and Burhop also showed that if Walther Hoffmann's industrial output index was used instead of the Ritschl index for Germany, the puzzle largely disappeared.


We thank participants in a conference at University of Groningen for helpful comments. A longer version of this article is available as a Warwick Economics Research Paper at