A major achievement of historical research in the past decades has been to deconstruct the old assumption that early modern Europe was a growthless economy. In recent years historians have spent increasing attention to the reconstruction of historical national accounts of early modern Europe, which, however, has led to a conundrum. New studies reveal long-run increases in GDP per capita that contradict older evidence on low levels and declining trends of living standards. This confusion is true for Europe as a whole, and is highly problematic since it seriously confounds our appreciation of the long-run growth achievement of even the most developed pre-industrial economies. Moreover, diverging paths between real wages and per capita GDPestimates
urge us to connect the living standard research to the income distribution debate. Building on a novel approach this project reconstructs aggregate and socially diversified real incomes in a comparative micro-level study for three regions in the Southern and Northern Netherlands between 1500 and 1900. Six urban centres in Brabant, Holland and Liège with distinct paths of development will be studied. This project contributes to a more profound understanding of the long-term development in living standards in the face of economic growth and decline.