A new version of RICardo (RICardo_2022)

As announced in a previous post, a new version of RICardo is now available. RICardo_2022 includes three major improvements as compared with RICardo_2017.

1. Updated trade dataset

The complete RICardo database gathers all data collected since the beginning of the project. It amounts to more than 630,000 bilateral flows in RICardo_2022 (vs. 400,000 in RICardo_2017).

The deduplicated RICardo file is an extraction of the complete data set that eliminates duplicates and zero values and favors primary sources. It gathers about 540,000 trade flows (vs. 360,000 in RICardo_2017).

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RICardo and GeoPolHist at WEHC 2022

The project “RICardo and GeoPolHist: Exploring trade relations between the geopolitical entities of the world from c. 1800 to 1938” has been selected to take part in the competition “AFHE Prizes in Digital Humanities” that aims at rewarding digital humanities projects in the field of economic history.

Here is the presentation that was displayed on a video screen at Campus Condorcet:


2017-2022, Towards a new version of RICardo

The first version of the RICardo database and RICardo website was officially released in December 2017. Over the last four years, there has been sustained activity around the project, especially from March 2019 when a new grant was awarded by the Fondation Del Duca covering the period 2019-2022. It provided the financial support needed to allow for the achievement of three objectives discussed by the RICardo committee in May 2017:1

  • update the database with new primary sources;
  • add a political dimension to trade data;
  • improve the website with new exploratory analysis features.

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  1. See ‘Future prospects’ in RIC_Workshop_2017_report []

From RICardo to GeoPolHist

GeoPolHist is a new tool of knowledge and research dedicated to the geopolitical entities that existed in the world since 1816. The idea for the GeoPolHist project derived from the RICardo trading entities that reflect the variety and complexity of the world trade network since the beginning of the 19th century. The RICardo dataset includes more than 1,400 RICentities, which can be countries, groups of countries, as well as cities, geographical or colonial areas. About 400 RICentities are identified as ‘countries’. Those of the ‘country’ type have been named and coded by using the lists of geopolitical units elaborated by the authors of the Correlates of War project. We revised and completed the COW lists to create a tool for quantitative analysis and visual exploration that traces the political status of more than 1,200 geopolitical entities of the world from 1816 to the present. GeoPolHist is intended to contribute to a renewal of research on the political history of the world over the last two centuries and to a better understanding of the effects of the political status (sovereign, non-sovereign) on other variables (economic, environmental, political…).

Conceptual and methodological issues are described in Béatrice Dedinger & Paul Girard (2021): How many countries in the world? The geopolitical entities of the world and their political status from 1816 to the present, Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, DOI:10.1080/01615440.2021.1939826.

TransNum web seminar, September 2020

In September 2020, Emilien Ruiz (Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po) and the Sciences Po médialab organized a web seminar that aimed to discuss un tournant numérique pour l’histoire économique over the last twenty years by gathering two quantitative historical databases projects, RICardo and DFIH. This allowed us to highlight the changes that have occurred in the RICardo project since its beginning in 2004. Indeed, RICardo experienced a digital turn in 2013 when Paul joined the team. This had an impact on the original purpose of the project: to build a historical bilateral trade database in order to analyze the causes of trade globalization; and on the method developed to exploit data: the gravity model. The use of digital methods led us to focus on the complexity of the representation of trade globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries with the aim of developing a new vision of this still insufficiently explored phenomenon.

Our slides:

Humanistica2020, May 2020

In May 2020, the first colloquium of the Association francophone des humanités numériques, Humanistica2020, was organized in Bordeaux (it was eventually canceled due to the Covid measures). This new association, created in 2014, invites researchers in social sciences to question their uses of digital technologies, an issue especially relevant to us. In fact, in our quest for an answer to our two main problematics – “how can the RICardo database be used to represent and analyze the network of world trade over the 19th – mid-20th centuries?” and “what are and how many are the trading entities of the world?” – the use of digital methods is of particular importance. Our communication Pourquoi et comment géolocaliser le commerce mondial des XIXe-miXXe siècles ? focused on our method to geo localize the RICardo trading entities and on the problems raised by the historical perspective.


SAGEO Conference, November 2019

In November 2019, the RICardo dataset was used as a case study by the team of the gFlowiz project at the international conference Spatial Analysis and GEOmatics in Clermont Ferrand. gFlowiz focuses on the design of geo visualization application dedicated to flow or traffic data analysis. The team has developed a new cartographic web application, Arabesque, that was tested with a panel of RICardo trade flows. This experiment allowed us to better grasp the difficulties raised by the analysis and the representation of the RICardo complex matrix.

RICardo dataset used in Arabesque software

Learn more of our use of arabesque in our paper for Humanistica 2020


The RICardo dataset has also been used to write a tutorial for the arabesque software.

Workshop of the Center for History and Economics in Paris, June 2019

In June 2019, we were invited at the worshop “Y a-t-il un tournant spatial en histoire en histoire économique” organized by the Center for History and Economics in Paris. We spoke about the heterogeneity of the trading entities listed in the RICardo dataset. This problem actually raised the question to know what is a trading entity and what is a country. Here is a brief summary of our presentation.


1. The heterogeneity of the RICardo trade database (1800-1938) as compared with the matrix of the IMF trade database (since 1950)

2. The variety of types of trading entities in the RICardo database

3. How many RICentities by type over time?

4. How many reporting and partner RICentities of the ‘country’ type over time?

Lund Seminar, October 2018

In October 2018, Astrid Kander invited us to present at the Lund seminar of the Department of Economic History the first results of our exploration of the world trade web using the RICardo database. We aimed to analyze the geographical distribution of world trade in a historical perspective and were confronted with the extreme complexity of the RICardo trade matrix. Here is the working paper that was sent to the seminar participants.

Our slides for the communication:


RICardo World Trade Web, 1834-1938


  1. Introduction

RICardo is a project initiated at the beginning of the 21th century with the aim of constructing a database of bilateral trade covering all of the world’s countries over the nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. Nearly fifteen years have passed before the first results of our work could be published. The final RICardo project includes a database (~300,000 data; 12.2017 version) and a website to explore the data. Contrary to the usual procedure, we did not try to publish a research paper before making our work available to the public. Given the time we have spent on this project, it was most important for us to publish our work as both a dataset and an exploration tool. We can now turn to the analytical part of the undertaking.

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Official release of the ‘RICardo Project’ database

We are very pleased to announce the official release of the RICardo dataset on the occasion of the bicentenary of David Ricardo’s Principles. The RICardo database is now freely available under the Open Database License in our data repository described under the Data Package format. Our data and transformation scripts are now opened to anyone to fuel research, to check our work or to get inspired for similar projects in Digital Humanities.

This release contains new data. Compared with the preliminary version opened to the public in July 2016, this updated version provides an extended trade database with new sources and new data. We were able to include many new primary sources thanks to the exploitation of a rich collection of trade statistics archived by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (Insee). The process of adding and filtering data allowed us to correct some errors and anomalies remaining in the preceding version.

We also reworked our exploration tool, the RICardo website, which has been improved in multiple ways (thanks to the help of grants accorded by Sciences Po). A new graphical identity and better documentations including, besides the trade database, an exchange rate database, a directory of all the entities listed in the trade database, and a directory of data sources.

Hopefully, this will not be the last version. The trade database still needs to be completed, especially for the period 1914-1923, and with new primary sources overall. We are also thinking of new features to better exploit the data, such as a political codification of entities over time. Moreover, anomalies can still remain yet to be corrected. We are very grateful for remarks and comments that would help us in improving this work. They can be posted on our Hypotheses blog. We will also use this blog to discuss the choices we made and document the issues we tackled in a series of blog posts to come.





RICardo Workshop 2017 Report

The first RICardo workshop was organized in Paris on 12 May 2017 to celebrate the official launching of the RICardo website on the bicentenary of David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. It gathered the members of the newly created RICardo committee to discuss a number of methodological questions pertaining to historical trade statistics and their exploitation with digital technology. This meeting was an opportunity to exchange views on challenging questions that each trade database builder has to face and answer. A list of discussion points was submitted to the committee. The outcome of our discussions is intended to help both the inexpert and the scholar user to better know and utilize trade data and the RICardo website. Continuer la lecture

The RICardo Project

RICardo (Research on International Commerce) est un projet dédié au commerce entre nations sur une période allant des débuts de la Révolution industrielle à la veille de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Il allie une base historique de données commerciales couvrant tous les pays du monde à un site web qui propose une exploration de l’histoire du commerce international à partir de visualisations (http://ricardo.medialab.sciences-po.fr/#/). Le projet RICardo s’adresse aux chercheurs, enseignants et étudiants.