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Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:08:51 -0600

This paper looks at the evolution of the terms of trade between commodities and manufactures in the twentieth century. A statistical analysis of the relative price series for 24 commodities and of eight indices reveals a significant deterioration in their barter terms of trade over the course of the twentieth century. This decline was neither continuous, nor was it distributed evenly among individual products, however. The data show that the far-reaching changes that the world economy underwent around 1920 and again around 1980 led to a stepwise deterioration which, over the long term, was reflected in a decline of nearly 1% per year in aggregate real prices for raw materials.

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EconWPA began as a conversation between Bob Parks and Larry Blume on January 28, 1993. I located Paul Ginsparg's archive (then and he graciously installed his software on a Sun Sparc system which was supporting the department of economics email and computation. EconWPA began accepting papers July 1, 1993 and had ftp, email, gopher and web interfaces. The web interface for submissions was engineered into existence in July 1995. A complete and catastrophic machine failure in 1999 caused the loss of EconWPA's email new paper announcment service at which time there were over 15,000 subscriptions with over 8,000 unique email addresses.

In 2005, Arts and Sciences commandeered the computing services that I had provided to the Department of Economics since 1987. Some might say that the department was sold out, others would (erroneously) claim that centralization is efficient, and still others would claim that I have few marketing skills.

I was told that I could keep operating EconWPA (as well as many other services including,, and three RePEc servers) but I would receive no support (hardware, software, or anthing else) and (as had been the case) no compensation. At that point, given the apparent low valuation of my activities by the department, and university, it made no sense for me to continue operating EconWPA or other services.

Thanks to all who have supported EconWPA in the past.

A Chinese curse states May you live in intersting times. I have. Bob Parks - Jan 2006