Natural Resource-Based Economic Development in History

Edward B. Barbier

Published: September 2005

The role of natural resources in fostering economic development is examined for key historical epochs, from the agricultural revolution in 8,000 BC to the present. Natural resource exploitation has been important to development for most of global history. Depending on which epoch is examined, resource-based development could be viewed as “successful” and sometimes not. Simply because a developing economy or region was endowed with abundant natural resources does not guarantee that its natural wealth is exploited efficiently and generates productive investments. Institutional factors also matter, and environmental conditions may also determine whether or not countries develop “good” institutions.

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