Richard W. Unger

Richard W. Unger

Fellow: Awarded 1985
Field of Study: Economic History

Competition: US & Canada

University of British Columbia

Richard W. Unger is a professor in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. His work has concentrated on the economic history of medieval and early modern Europe and especially the history of technology and of shipping. He holds degrees in history from Haverford College and the University of Chicago and in history and economics from Yale University. He has taught a wide range of courses in European and world history over more than four decades at UBC.

He has published monographs on the history of shipbuilding (Dutch Shipbuilding Before 1800: Ships and Guilds, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1978) and the relationship of shipbuilding to the economy (The Ship in the Medieval Economy, 600-1600, London: Croom Helm and Montreal: McGill- Queen’s University Press, 1980 [Reprinted, 1982]; Ships and Shipping in the North Sea and Atlantic, 1400-1800, Basingstoke: Variorum Press, 1998) as well as on sources for knowledge of technological change in the industry (The Art of Medieval Technology: Images of Noah the Shipbuilder, New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1991). He has also published extensively on the history of brewing, in Holland to the end of the nineteenth century (A History of Brewing in Holland 900-1900 Economy, Technology and the State, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001) and on the industry throughout Europe down through the sixteenth century (Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 [paperback edition 2007)]. Connected to issues of beer production, he has also written in articles in various journals and volumes about grain supply and market integration in medieval and early modern Europe (for example, “Thresholds for Market Integration in the Low Countries and England in the Fifteenth Century,” Money, Markets and Trade in Late Medieval Europe Essays in Honour of John H. A. Munro, Lawrin Armstrong et al., eds., Leiden: Brill, 2007, 349-380; "Feeding Low Countries Towns: the Grain Trade in the Fifteenth Century," Revue Belge de Philolgie et d’Histoire, 77, 2 [1999], 329-358; "Beer, Wine and Land Use in the Late Medieval Low Countries," Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis, LXXXI [1998], 329-337). More recently he has turned to the history of cartography in the Renaissance, the development of mapping, its varied practical as well as political uses and its connections with ships and shipping (Pictures of Power: Ships on Maps in Renaissance Europe, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He has also edited volumes of papers, in a number of cases in cooperation with others, on naval power (War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Papers given at a conference at Arrabida, Portugal, 18-19 February, 2000, Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003), the history of cartography (Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: fresh perspectives, new methods, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008) and also on political and cultural relations between Britain and eastern Europe to the end of the eighteenth century (Britain and Poland-Lithuania—Contact and Comparison From the Middle Ages to 1795, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008). He also maintains, in conjunction with a colleague, an expanding website with price data of commodities from around the world starting in the thirteenth century and ending in 1914( as a service to researchers in economic history. He has been a fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, All Souls College, University of Oxford, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center, the International Institute of Social History, and the John Carter Brown Library, He has also been a visitor, teaching in the Department of Medieval Studies of the Central European University and in the Department of Economic History of the University of Amsterdam. Nearing the end of his teaching career, he has now turned his attention to environmental history and especially energy use in Europe from the Middle Ages to the eve of the Industrial Revolution as well as shifts in energy carriers in Canada in the last two centuries.


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