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Welcome to iPEHD – the ifo Prussian Economic History Database

The ifo Prussian Economic History Database (iPEHD) is a county-level database covering a rich collection of variables for all counties of Prussia during the 19th century. The Royal Prussian Statistical Office collected these data in a number of censuses over the period 1816-1901, with much county-level information surviving in the archives. These data provide a unique treasure for unprecedented micro-regional empirical research in economic history, analyzing the importance of such factors as education, religion, fertility, and many others for the economic development of Prussia in the 19th century. The service of iPEHD is to provide the data in a digitized and structured way.

The Scope of iPEHD

iPEHD starts with the population census in 1816, which is the first full-scale census released by the Royal Prussian Statistical Office, which had been founded in 1805. The 1816 census covers the 308 Prussian counties at the time. Further extensive census data are available in 1849, 1864, 1871, and 1882, but – as indicated in the following table – many more detailed data were collected in additional years. As the number of counties grew over time, by 1901 the data cover 574 Prussian counties.

In total, iPEHD contains more than 1,500 variables and more than half a million data points, all at the county level. These data are drawn from a total of 15 original sources, many of which consist of several volumes.

Year
No. of variables
No. of county observations
No. of data points
1816
58
308
17,864
1819
5
344
1,720
1821
22
344
7,568
1816-1821
24
456
10,944
1829
6
59
354
1849
712
335
238,520
1858
6
342
2,052
1862
4
346
1,384
1864
53
347
18,391
1866a
1
342
342
1866b
11
334
3,674
1871a
25
453
11,325
1871b
14
458
6,412
1878
5
426
2,130
1882a
269
464
124,816
1882b
14
465
6,510
1886a
156
544
84,864
1886b
97
518
50,246
1892
8
550
4,400
1896
15
552
8,280
1901
8
574
4,592
Sum
1,513
 
606,388

Note: Some of the data points may contain missing information.

Using iPEHD

Before using the data contained in the iPEHD database, it is necessary for the user to understand the structure in which the data are presented in iPEHD. We document the features of the iPEHD database on the different sections of this website (also accessible through the sidebar on the left), as well as in the following paper:

  1. Becker, Sascha, Francesco Cinnirella, Erik Hornung and Ludger Wößmann, "iPEHD - The ifo Prussian Economic History Database", Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 47 (2), 2014, 57-66, Information, Working paper version available as: CESifo Working Paper 3904 (PDF) | Details

One of the biggest challenges when analyzing historical data is to ensure comparability over time, where the dimension of the units of observation has to be comparable. Our service facilitates the analysis of data at the county level, holding the administrative boundaries fixed. Thus, before using iPEHD, please make sure to read the merging data section carefully to get familiar with the procedure of combining different census years.

iPEHD stores its data in comma-separated values (csv) format. The raw data are categorized by eight content areas and can be accessed in the raw data section.

The codebook section provides information on the names, definitions, labels, and sources for each variable contained in iPEHD.

The sources section documents the original volumes from which the iPEHD data have been digitized, published by the Royal Prussian Statistical Bureau or its employees.

A lot of research in economic history has used data from iPEHD by now. The publications section documents these papers and, for those of them already published in academic journals, provides ready-made datasets and codes to replicate the tables published in the papers using Stata.

It is always telling to visualize the data on historical maps. Therefore, thematic maps of some of the iPEHD data are provided in the maps section.

iPEHD is certainly not the only project dealing with historical Prussian data at the county level. Other projects provide such services as maps, information on territorial changes, additional data, and other material on Prussian counties. Several of these projects, whose work is highly appreciated and can be viewed as complementary to ours, are listed in the external links section.

The FAQs section provides answers to some frequently asked questions on standard problems encountered by iPEHD users. However, we have to point out that at the end of the day, the best way to structure and use the data will be specific to every single research project. To find the best possible solution to this task is a crucial part of any research project and thus lies in the responsibility of every individual researcher. While providing the service of supplying the historical data in a digitized way and suggesting ways on how to merge the data from different sources, the people behind iPEHD do not have the resources to answer additional questions for specific research projects.

iPEHD History

In 2006, when looking for data to analyze the relationship of literacy and religion with economic outcomes in German history, we stumbled upon the rich county-level data available from the Prussian census of 1871. The following two example pictures provide an impression of how the source volumes look like.

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After thorough studies of the data, we were fascinated by the depth and breadth of the historical information that the Royal Prussian Statistical Office had collected and documented. Prussian thoroughness had produced high-quality data at the county level in the 19th century documenting everything from education over religion and demographics to economic development (see the following figure for an example).

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Prussian economic history in the 19th century proves a fascinating setting to study many of the most fundamental questions in economic history. A country of such high diversity, but with roughly uniform institutional settings, allows answering many important research questions by analyzing the micro-regional data with modern microeconometric methods.

Soon, we recognized the sheer amount of data that were just sitting around in the statistical annals at German state libraries. The quality of this impressive collection of information, remarkable for the 19th century, has generally been regarded as excellent by historians and demographers. And compared to the selective samples which a lot of historical research is restricted to, the full censuses covering the whole population provide a much more reliable picture of the historical setting.

After the original “Was Weber wrong?” paper which relied mainly on the 1871 census and subsequent data, we explored annals covering rather unknown census data from 1816 to 1821. Although lots of effort had to be undertaken to make these data ready for research and to ensure their comparability, we soon found it to be very promising and equally reliable.

A third large data digitization project involved the census of 1849. The sheer amount of information provided in the sources was overwhelming.

The censuses of 1816, 1849, and 1871 became the foundation of iPEHD. But, as time went by, we also digitized data from different other censuses to fill in the gaps. Although far from complete, we find the data to provide a rather comprehensive overview of 19th-century economic history in Prussia.

Thus, we are happy to be able to make the digitized data available to the scientific community and the interested public. iPEHD went online in the summer of 2012 to be freely used by anyone interested.

The collection of these data and their provision to the scientific community is part of the project "Establishment of a leading international center for empirical research on the importance of education for long-term economic development," generously funded by the Leibniz Association under the Pact for Research and Innovation. The project was carried out at the department for Human Capital and Innovation at the Ifo Institute – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.

Conditions of Use

The data are provided free of charge. We have tried to document the data as good as - we think - we possibly could, including references to the original publications from which the data are drawn. By downloading data from iPEHD, you assume full responsibility for their use. We cannot provide assistance on issues of research design, let alone statistical analysis.

If you are fully convinced you discovered a digitization error and have checked this against the original sources, we are grateful to hear about this at iPEHD@ifo.de.

How to Cite the iPEHD Database

When using data from the iPEHD database in your work, please reference it as follows:

  1. Becker, Sascha, Francesco Cinnirella, Erik Hornung and Ludger Wößmann, "iPEHD - The ifo Prussian Economic History Database", Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 47 (2), 2014, 57-66, Information, Working paper version available as: CESifo Working Paper 3904 (PDF) | Details

Please also send one electronic copy of any work that uses data from the iPEHD database to us at iPEHD@ifo.de.


Short URL: www.ifo.de/w/3vm8pkGNY