List of countries by GDP (PPP) in the nineteenth century

These are lists of countries in the nineteenth century by their estimated real gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), the value of all final goods and services produced within a country/region in a given year. GDP dollar (international dollar) estimates here are derived from PPP estimates.


Due to the absence of sufficient data for nearly all economies until the 20th century, earlier GDP is only roughly estimated. In a first step, economic historians try to reconstruct the GDP per capita of a given political or geographical entity from the meagre evidence. This value is then multiplied by the estimated population size, another determinant for which as a rule only little ancient data is available.

A key notion in the whole process is that of subsistence, the income level which is necessary for sustaining one's life. Since pre-industrial societies, by modern standards, were characterized by a very low degree of urbanization and a large majority of people working in the agricultural sector, economic historians prefer to express income in cereal units. To achieve comparability over space and time, these numbers are then converted into monetary units such as International Dollars, a third step which leaves a relatively wide margin of interpretation.

The formula is: GDP (PPP) = GDP per capita (PPP) × population size

It should be stressed that, historically speaking, population size is a far more important multiplier in the equation. This is because, in contrast to industrial economies, the average income ceiling of premodern agrarian societies was quite low everywhere, possibly not higher than twice the subsistence level.[1] Therefore, the total GDP as given below primarily reflects the respective historical population size, and is much less indicative of contemporary living standards than, for example, estimations of past GDP per capita.

According to 20th-century macroeconomist Paul Bairoch, a pioneer in historical economic analysis,

it is obvious that by itself the volume of total GNP has no important significance, and that the volume of GNP is not by itself the expression of the economic strength of a nation.

Rather, Bairoch advocates a formula combining GNP per capita and total GNP to provide a better measure of the economic performance of national economies.[2]

The total GDPs of the British Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire were difficult to calculate due to lack of information from some localities in Maddison's work. There is no information to speculate the GDP of many colonies and national subdivisions. In the case of Austria-Hungary, the data given is about the modern territory of the Austria and Hungary, while the majority of the population and economy lay outside today's borders. There were data about future countries that were once part of the Empire. Using that, the Czechoslovakia's GDP was split in the rate of 2:1 to Austria and Hungary respectively because of the location of each part in the former empire and the population rate between Czech and Slovakian territories of 2:1. Data about the GDP of the territory of the future Yugoslavian kingdom in 1890s existed, so the proportion of the population among Croatia-Slavonia, Serbia and the other constituents of the future kingdom were used to deduce the GDP of each place. Information about Galician GDP was deduced using the proportion of the people it had in what would become Poland. Information about other parts were missing, so the GDP of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was actually bigger than shown, as well as the British Empire.


List by the Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD (Partial forecasted estimates for 1889–1890) and Maddison Project[3][4][5]

Rank Country GDP
(millions of 1890 Int$)
 World at least 1,500,000
1   British Empire
2   United States 211,678
3   Qing dynasty 205,309
4   German Empire
126,172 [o 1]
5   French Empire
108,772 [o 2]
6   Russian Empire
7   Austro-Hungarian Empire
c. 63,000
8   Italy 49,686
9   Netherlands
40,386 [o 3]
10   Empire of Japan 37,016
11   Spanish Empire
35,399 [o 4]
12   Belgium 20,443
13   Ottoman Empire 18,749
14   Sweden-Norway
15   Empire of Brazil 11,001
16   Mexico 10,860
17    Switzerland 8,766
18   Persia 7,749
19   Argentina 7,265
20   Portuguese Empire
c. 7,000
21   Romania 6,553
22   Denmark 5,462
23   Siam 5,229
24   Chile 4,781
25   Ethiopia c. 4,000
26   Korea c. 4,000
27   Morocco 3,182
28   Bulgaria c. 3,000
29   Colombia 2,379
30   Venezuela 2,172
31   Greece 2,640
32   Nepal 1,504
33   Orange Free State c. 2,000
34   Serbia c. 1,708
35   Peru 1,650
36   Uruguay 1,594
37   Transvaal c. 1,000
38   Bolivia c. 1,000
39   Guatemala c. 1,000
40   Luxembourg c. 700
41   Ecuador 589
42   El Salvador c. 500
43   Montenegro c. 500
44   Honduras c. 500
45   Nicaragua c. 400
46   Costa Rica c. 400
47   Liberia c. 300
48   Haiti c. 250
49   Monaco c. 50
50   San Marino c. 30
51   Liechtenstein c. 25
52   Andorra c. 13
?   Afghanistan ???
?   Paraguay ???
?   Emirate of Nejd ???
?   Dominican Republic ???
?   Muscat and Oman ???
?   Congo ???
?   Neutral Moresnet ???
?   Bhutan ???
?   Hawaii ???


  1. ^ (excluding colonies)
  2. ^ (excluding territories with uncertain GDP)
  3. ^ (excluding territories with uncertain GDP)
  4. ^ (excluding territories with uncertain GDP)


  1. ^ Milanovic 2006, p. 460, 468:

    In conclusion, the fact that the average incomes in the most developed agricultural economies like Augustan Rome and Basil's Byzantium were about twice or less than the subsistence minimum might indicate that the pre-industrial societies were unlikely to ever exceed that ceiling. This in turn has implications for our assessment of the average standard of living in other, non-Western, pre-industrial economies like those of China, India, pre-Columbian Americas, and Africa....A further implication of these calculations is that a realistic maximum income that could be envisaged for the pre-industrial societies might be a bit more than twice the subsistence minimum, or around $PPP 1000 (at 1990 international prices).

  2. ^ Bairoch 1976, p. 282
  3. ^ "Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD". Angus Maddison. Retrieved 9 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ GGDC - Maddison Project
  5. ^ David Rumsey

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