SFU Library blog, BUEC Buzz, with colourful banner showing students

A current awareness resource for students & faculty members in Business & Economics

New! GFDatabase for economic & financial data spanning centuries

Published by Mark Bodnar

The wealth of online data published in and about the last few decades is, of course, wonderful and has deeply changed the type and amount of research we can do. However, that flood of data about the recent past can result in myopic research: if information is not online and in a form that's easy to integrate and analyse with other data, then it may not even be seen, producing research conclusions that miss long-term trends.

We are constantly seeking ways to fill this gap in older online information through resources such as JSTOR (online archives of core journals) and digitized primary resources such as letters, reports, diaries, and government documents. I am very pleased to announce that SFU researchers now also have access to economic and financial data that spans decades — centuries in many cases: GFDatabase!

Note that our access to GFDatabase is being treated as a pilot subscription... we have full access for a complete year, but we are counting on you all to provide detailed feedback about the impact of this resource on your research and teaching before we consider renewing it at the end of 2021. Please share your opinions and experiences!


Logo for the publisher of GFDatabase: Global Financial Data
Screen shot from GFDatabase's search screen. Shows a drop-down list of many of the categories listed elsewhere in this post (asset allocations, etc.)
The publisher of GFDatabase, Global Financial Data,  searches global archives to find and digitize data that's missing from most online sources. It then appends the historical data to current data to create unbroken time series covering more than 200 countries on topics such as... 

  • Asset Allocation: 1800s to present
  • Economic data: early 1200s to present
  • Equity data: late 1600s to present
  • Commodity data: 1252 to present
  • Exchange rates: 1200s to present
  • Fixed income: late 13th century to present
  • National accounts and GDP: 1790 to present
  • Government and Debt
  • International Trade
  • Development data

(For the full list of the time series currently available in GFDatabase, download this excel sheet. (9 MB))

Of course, all researchers will need full transparency on how these incredibly long time series were constructed before using them in their own analysis. GFDatabase provides details on the sources used to assemble each series, and the publisher is available to discuss data accuracy or calculation methods as needed.

In addition to the core macro data in GFDatabase, our subscription includes access to the Events in Time module — a searchable list of over 50,000 significant historical events that have influenced financial markets in the past 2000 years (screenshot sample featuring RCH & TSX). 

SFU's subscription includes only the GFDatabase search engine (listed on the left side of the entry screen) and the complimentary Events in Time module. The other modules (GFD Indices, etc.) can be searched, but the resulting time series cannot be viewed or downloaded.


GFDatabase is listed on the library's A-Z list of databases. In the next few days it will also be added to the Economics, Finance, History, and Political Science subsets of that list, as well as to several relevant resource guides such as Economic Indicators.

GFDatabase requires individual registration. To register, connect to the database via the SFU Library's link, select “Register”, then fill out the registration form. Be sure to choose the account type “Academic” and to use your SFU email address. See this screen capture for the location of the "Register" link, and this screen capture for a preview of the registration form.

Once you've registered, always connect to GFDatabase through the SFU Library (using your SFU ID along the way), then log in with the personal GFDatabase ID you set up during registration. This extra login step is a bit of a hassle, but it means that you can personalize the functionality. For example, you can set up lists of your favourite time series or topics for simple browsing or bulk downloading.

Note: GFDatabase subscriptions have limits on the number of time series each person can download per day (300) and per year (2500). You can track your activity level by clicking on Account Info within the database. Be sure to review your selections carefully before downloading them. If you anticipate needing to exceed the limits for a research project, contact me and we can discuss options with the publisher.

Note that charting a series within the interface does not count against your download limit (sample chart).


Logo for the GDDatabase interface, known as Finaeon.
Introduction to the GFDatabase interface (aka "Finaeon") - 10 minutes
Note that this video also mentions other Global Financial Data modules that are not currently available here at SFU. Nevertheless, it's still a good introduction to the interface in general.

For power users: details on the mnemonic logic behind the tickers or codes used for each time series: Word document by Global Financial Data's Chief Economist + related codes in an Excel workbook.

We have also arranged for online orientations with the publisher: Jan. 22 at 10:30am and Jan. 29 at 9am (sessions are identical). We strongly recommend that you take part in one of these sessions if you think GFDatabase might have any relevance to your current or future research — the interface is not straightforward and a short orientation will save you a significant amount of time!  Just send me an email to get the Zoom details: mbodnar@sfu.ca


We've licensed GFDatabase for one year — ending Dec. 31, 2021.  Before making a decision on a possible renewal, we'll be reviewing both usage statistics and all comments from SFU's researchers. Please do send me your feedback so that we can make an informed decision about the relevance and impact of this resource.

  • Did you use GFDatabase in a course as either a student or an instructor?
  • Did you use GFDatabase in a research project that ended up being published?
  • Did GFDatabase have data that you couldn't find elsewhere?

Please send any comments to mbodnar@sfu.ca by Sept. 15, 2021.

Happy New Year!

— Mark

P.S.: If GFDatabase is your sort of thing, check out Data Planet!

Mark Bodnar
Economics & Business Librarian

Blog Categories