Keywords: Economic History; New Institutional Economics; Social Mentality; Social Science; State Civilization.
Douglass Cecil North was part of the generation of social scientists, born in the first half of the XX century, that underlined the explicative inadequacy of the neoclassical economic scheme for the analysis of social change and therefore started to rethink a theoretical model to study human development. Originally an economist, he became an interdisciplinary scientist studying the influence of the social mentality and the institutional framework in the development of different economic systems. He was a visionary in understanding that to comprehend the role of institutions in economic change it was necessary to investigate their "way of thinking" and their impact on the organization of social systems. His fundamental legacy for institutional scientists and historians is the conclusion that the variability in the features of economic performances clarifies the seminal role of the cultural background of agents in the achievement of positive outcomes for political and economic systems.