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World War II Colonial Soldiers and the Demand for Independence

Gold Coast Regiment at the Burma Front, World War II

Ghana Accra Protests In February 1948, two thousand former soldiers who served in the Gold Coast Regiment in World War II (WWII) marched against the government they had defended three years ago. The veterans were incredibly well organized, coming from different regions of the country. They demanded “independence, a good living, and good pay.” When the British … Continue reading World War II Colonial Soldiers and the Demand for Independence

Disruptive Innovation in the Economic Organization of China and the West

Network science presents researchers with an alternative framework for analyzing societies and their economies. By recognizing that societies have the properties of multilevel systems, and that as systems, their structural designs evolve through the interdependence of the micro and macro levels, it is possible to map patterns and explain how the large sudden shocks to … Continue reading Disruptive Innovation in the Economic Organization of China and the West

Foreign Loans and State Weakening

Why is state capacity weaker in the Global South than in the West? In my new book Pawned States: State Building in the Era of International Finance (Princeton University Press 2022) I argue that early access to external public credit in the first globalization of international capital derailed state capacity building in the Global South. … Continue reading Foreign Loans and State Weakening

The Problem of History Revisited

Ancient China was characterized by a feudalism strikingly similar to what we find in medieval Europe. In both places, feudalism was used as a form of government based on a fragmentation and privatization of political power. Well, upon closer inspection China was not feudal after all. But then, neither was Europe. Feudalism had to be … Continue reading The Problem of History Revisited

How Medieval and Early Modern Monarchies Cheated Death

By Andrej Kokkonen & Anders Sundell "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” wrote Benjamin Franklin. Taxes have certainly received considerable attention in the study of historical political economy. War made the state, states made war, and to make war, states need money. But Franklin’s other certainty, death, … Continue reading How Medieval and Early Modern Monarchies Cheated Death

How Radical Administrative Reforms Unfold: Evidence from France’s “Rotating Capitals”

In most modern states, public administrations are organized in a pyramidal structure. National territories are divided into provinces, regions, or states, which are themselves subdivided into smaller and smaller administrative units, as in a game of nesting dolls. At these lower levels of administration, citizens can often expect to obtain all types of public services … Continue reading How Radical Administrative Reforms Unfold: Evidence from France’s “Rotating Capitals”

Do Local Campaign Visits by a Populist Politician Matter in Elections?

Campaign appearances are one of the most common strategies in electoral races. Personal visits and mass rallies appear to be particularly important for populist politicians, allowing them to display closeness to the ordinary people. However, before the turn of the 19th century, candidates rarely reached out to voters personally. The US presidential election of 1896 … Continue reading Do Local Campaign Visits by a Populist Politician Matter in Elections?

Do Parliaments Cause Growth?

The short answer is yes but probably only if they are powerful enough. Explaining the development of Europe from an economic backwater in the tenth century to the cradle of the modern market economy by the nineteenth century has a long and impressive pedigree, going back to the founders of social science. It has recently … Continue reading Do Parliaments Cause Growth?

Ottoman Governance and Development: The Role of Human Capital

The long-run effects of historical imperial rule on economic development are controversial. We contribute to this debate by considering the role of an experience that is relatively little understood – the Ottoman Empire in Europe. Our new article pursues two objectives: first, to estimate the effects of Ottoman exposure on long-run development by going beyond … Continue reading Ottoman Governance and Development: The Role of Human Capital

Did Tea Drinking Cut Mortality Rates in England?

Policymakers have recently devoted significant attention to elevating the importance of access to clean water as a critical step in advancing economic development, most recently including it as one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Although significant progress has been made on this front, the World Health Organization estimates that 1-in-3 people lack access … Continue reading Did Tea Drinking Cut Mortality Rates in England?