Australia: relative decline and reorientation

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This chapter outlines the key contours of Australian economic history between 1870 and 2010 in a comparative perspective. Overall, the story it tells is a positive one, in spite of the vexing challenges that Australia has faced. Despite undergoing relative economic decline and a fundamental reorientation in the direction of its trade over this period, Australia emerged into the twenty-first century with its status as one of the world’s most prosperous and advanced societies intact. While numerous challenges remain unresolved, Australia’s experience to date provides a clear-cut example of a society where an abundance of natural resources has proved a blessing rather than a curse. The secret of Australia’s avoidance of the pitfalls that have befallen so many countries similarly blessed appears to lie in the ability of its institutions to adapt successfully in the face of changed circumstances while remaining supportive of innovative and productive activities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Economic History of the Modern World
Subtitle of host publicationVolume II, 1870 to the Present
EditorsStephen Broadberry, Kyoji Fukao
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781316671603
ISBN (Print)9781107159488, 9781108953771
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Australia
  • economic performance
  • population
  • economic openness
  • productivity
  • resources
  • trade

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