During my time at Harvard last academic year, I attended some really interesting seminars. My favourite paper was by Nathan Nunn and his co-authors - click here. They argue and present compelling evidence that the intensity of a society's plough usage in the past predicts the female-male wage gap as well as female participation in the labour market and in politics in the present. As males had a comparative advantage in using ploughs due to greater physical strength etc., societies which used the plough more intensely developed a culture where females dealt with domestic affairs whilst men went out to work in the fields. Even though ploughing has been mechanised for a century plus, the cultural attitudes towards gender roles developed over many centuries have been persistent and slow to change.
This is yet another paper by leading economists which demonstrates the need to study the past in order to understand the economy in the present.