Noel D. Johnson


Welcome to my personal webpage.  I’m an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University.  I’m also a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center and a faculty member at the Center for the Study of Public Choice.  Here is my  CV.

I spend a lot of my time doing research on the historical origins of modern economic growth.   At the moment, I’m particularly interested in how the nation state has either facilitated, or impeded, economic success from the early-modern period to the present day.

I was trained as an economic historian at Washington University in St. Louis and my work is also heavily influenced by the New Institutional Economics.  That said, while much of my work is in economic history, I’m also happy to go where interesting questions take me.

Enjoy the site...

What’s New?

8-10-2016  Our paper on Jewish Communities and City Growth has just been accepted at the Journal of Development Economics. Presentation slides for the paper are here.

8-10-2016  I’ll be at Yale on October 24 to present our paper on Economic Shocks, Inter-Ethnic Complementarities and the Persecution of Minorities: Evidence from the Black Death. The paper is co-authored with Remi Jedwab and Mark Koyama.

8-2-2016  My paper with Raphaël Franck on Can public policies lower religiosity? Evidence from school choice in France, 1878-1902, is now out at the Economic History Review.

7-22-2016  Mark Koyama and I have just been offered a contract from Cambridge University Press for our book on the origins of religious tolerance in Europe. The new title is Persecution & Toleration: The Long Road to Religious Freedom. We’re excited to be working with the fantastic people at CUP!

5-13-2016  I’ll be presenting my paper with Mark Koyama on Jewish Communities and City Growth in the Berlin Colloquium for Economic History at Humboldt University on June 15. My slides are here. I’m really looking forward to it!

5-11-2016  Mark Koyama and I have a new version of paper on Jewish Communities and City Growth. I’m looking forward to presenting parts of it in Corsica at the IOEA (ex-ESNIE) workshop next week!

3-1-2016  I’ll be at Brown University to participate in the conference on Deep Rooted Factors in Comparative Development from April 30-31. I’ll be presenting our research on Bones, Bacteria, and Break Points: The Heterogenous Spatial Effects of the Black Death and Long-Run Growth.

3-1-2016  I’ll be in Corsica between the 16th and 20th of May to run a workshop for IOEA (ex-ESNIE). I’m giving a workshop on “Spatial Techniques and Economic History: Evidence on Jewish Communities and City Growth, 1100-1850”.

3-1-2016  We have a new draft of our paper on Jewish Communities and City Growth in Preindustrial Europe. I’ll be presenting this paper at American University in the Economics Department on March 23. I’m looking forward to it! Here’s more info on the seminar.

2-2-2016  I’ve been teaching the informal Market Access Seminar for two weeks now and things are going great. I have 13 great students sitting in. The syllabus is here.

11-16-2015  I’ll be in Paris at the Banque de France on December 14 and 15 to present my research on Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France. I’m looking forward to the trip.

11-13-2015  Just presented some in-progress research with Mark Koyama on Jewish Communities and City Growth in Preindustrial Europe at the SSHA conference in Baltimore. Lot’s of great comments from the audience.

11-4-2015  Had the opportunity to present new research on Bones, Bacteria, and Break Points: The Heterogenous Spatial Effects of the Black Death and Long-Run Growth in the Public Choice Seminar at GMU. Really enjoyed discussing the research with my colleagues.

10-8-2015  Had a great time presenting some research cities and the Black Death at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Fairfax today.  I spoke on how Remi Jedwab, Mark Koyama, and I are using the Black Death to test theories from Urban Economics and Economic History. Here are the slides (less technical).

9-25-2015  I will be giving a talk at the University of Maryland for the History Department on my paper Jewish Persecutions and Weather Shocks, 1100-1800, 1100-1800 next Thursday (Oct 1).  The talk is part of great looking mini-conference on “Behavioral Practice, Social Boundaries, & the Making of Identity in the Early-Modern Era”.  More information and the conference program is here.

8-23-2015  I’ve created the webpages for my graduate US economic history and development economics courses this term.

8-19-2015  The bi-annual Economic History & Development Workshop will take place this Wednesday, August 26, on the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.  We have a lot of fantastic speakers scheduled.  You can download the schedule along with location information here.  The Workshop is open to the public.

8-18-2015  Our paper “Jewish Persecutions and Weather Shocks, 1100-1800” has been accepted for publication at The Economic Journal.

8-05-2015  Our paper “Can Public Policies Lower Religiosity? Evidence from School Choice in France, 1878-1902” has been accepted for publication at The Economic History Review.

6-5-2015  Just got back from travel in South Africa where I presented at an ERSA conference on the Fiscal History of Africa.  My host, Johan Fourie, was extremely gracious and is at the center of a nice economic history group centered on Cape Town.  I gave a presentation on Fiscal Capacity and the Development of Market Enhancing institutions.

5-18-2015  I was at the Cliometric Society meetings last weekend in Ann Arbor.  Lot’s of great papers and fun to chat with old colleagues and new.

3-17-2015  My colleague and coauthor, Mark Koyama, will be giving the Fenwick Fellow Lecture at George Mason Fairfax Campus on April 8 at 2pm.  The talk is about the book we’re writing together.  The title is “The Birth of Religious Freedom:  Liberalism, Rule of Law, and State Capacity, 1100-1800”.  The flyer for the event is here.

3-16-2015  I’ll be at ASREC this weekend to present my new research on “Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France”.  You can download a copy of the current draft of the paper here.  The schedule for the conference is here.

1-16-2015  I just created the webpage for my Development Economics courses for the Spring term.  They can be accessed here.

11-15-2014  I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the topic of “Time is Money” by Augustina Woodgate for her show on Daylight Savings on Radio Espacio Estacion (my interview starts at the 9:05 mark).  You can download my 35 minute interview here.

I discuss how our changing ability to measure time affected the history of work.  I also talk about our ability to partition time at the workplace and how it’s related to male-female wage gaps.  There’s also some discussion of French regulation.  The conversation was lot’s of fun!

11-9-2014  Excited that Nico Voigtlaender will be coming in to give a talk in the Washington Area Economic History Seminar this Friday 11-14.  The paper he’ll be presenting is here.  

10-16-2014  Had a great time presenting some ideas at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Fairfax today.  I spoke on how preference homogeneity is beneficial for reaching constitutional arrangements and on how high capacity states may have played a role historically in generating those types of preferences.  Here are my (mostly unoriginal) slides for the talk.

10-14-2014  I’ll be at Columbia/Barnard on December 4 to present a paper in their Economic History Seminar.  Here’s the seminar schedule.  I’ll be talking about my new research on Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France.  You can download a copy of the current draft of the paper here.

9-18-2014  Just got back from the Economic History Association meetings where I presented my research on Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France.  You can download a copy of the paper here.

8-18-2014  I’ve created the webpages for Grad US Economic History and Undergrad Economic History.

6-5-2014  Our article on the decline of witch trials and the origins of rule of law in France has just appeared in the Journal of Law and Economics.  Download it here.

5-23-2014  Just finished attending a workshop discussing Jared Rubin’s fantastic new book, God, Power, and Printing: The Roots of Economic Success and Stagnation in Europe and the Middle East.

5-7-2014  Just got the letter from the Provost indicating that I am now, officially, promoted and tenured at George Mason!

5-5-2014  Had a great time at Brown University over the weekend at the conference on “Deep Rooted Factors in Economic Development”.

3-29-2014  Had a great visit at the University of Vermont.  Gave a talk on my new research (very much in progress) titled “From state capacity to rule of law in Old Regime France.”  The presentation for the paper is here.

3-1-2014  The Public Choice Center has done a nice write up of Mark and my work on the rise of tolerance in early-modern Europe here.

2-23-2014  Just finished attending a Mercatus manuscript conference for Deirdre McCloskey’s new book “The Treasured Bourgeoisie”.

1-17-2014  I’ve created the webpages for the classes I’m teaching in the spring semester, Development Economics and Economic History (Undergrad)

1-5-2014  Back from the ASSA Meetings where I presented our paper on “Jewish Persecutions and Weather Shocks:  1100-1800”.  The paper is here and the presentation is here.

Contact Information

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University

3301 North Fairfax Dr., Suite 450

Arlington, VA 22201

My Other Web Pages

GMU Economics


SSRN Working Papers 


Follow me on Twitter @ndjohnson