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Finding Historical Data V: The Curious Case of Ancestry.com

In today’s post, I’m going to talk about the curious case of Ancestry.com** — in that it’s a surprising resource for academics looking for historical data.  Ancestry.com (hereafter referred to as Ancestry) has long been a resource for amateur genealogists to track down distant ancestors, but I always thought of this as place for people … Continue reading Finding Historical Data V: The Curious Case of Ancestry.com

Studying Precolonial Legacies in the Present: Insights from Fieldwork

The West African state of Senegal’s precolonial geography often feels very much alive and well. Rather than traveling to Kanel or Podor Department, modern-day administrative divisions, Senegalese speak of traveling to ‘Fouta’ - short for Fouta Toro, one of the many precolonial kingdoms that populated the territory prior to French colonization. To take another example, … Continue reading Studying Precolonial Legacies in the Present: Insights from Fieldwork

A Good Workshop

A few years ago, in reflecting on the annual meeting of the Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics, I wrote: What makes for a good conference? The opportunity to see old friends and make new ones. Quality panels with work that challenges and crosses intellectual boundaries. Outstanding plenary sessions. Pleasantly situated receptions and dinners. Such … Continue reading A Good Workshop

Leviathan Reborn: Bureaucratic Legacies of China and the First Great Divergence

By Joy Chen, Erik H. Wang, and Xiaoming Zhang Few tasks of governance are as important and challenging at the same time as state-building. A strong state is pivotal for economic development and human welfare, but making it possible in the first place has proven prohibitively difficult in many regions of the developing world. This … Continue reading Leviathan Reborn: Bureaucratic Legacies of China and the First Great Divergence

The Insurers’ Wars

When Thomas Jefferson’s administration was trying to decide whether it could declare war against Britain in 1807, it came up against a surprising group of opponents: America’s wealthy and politically savvy marine underwriters. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, which raged around the world between 1793 and 1815, posed an existential threat to the new … Continue reading The Insurers’ Wars

On the Challenge and Promise of Understanding Historical Development Through Publicly-recorded Property Institutions

Historical political economy research demands thorough interrogation of data with respect to its underlying meaning given the specific context under which the data was recorded – seemingly obvious public dates may not indicate what they seem to upon first blush! Land patent dates from the 19th Century US frontier west, which are now widely available, … Continue reading On the Challenge and Promise of Understanding Historical Development Through Publicly-recorded Property Institutions

Political Accountability and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

By Yuri M. Zhukov and Jacob Walden When the 1918 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic hit San Francisco and Philadelphia, a tale of two cities emerged in the response of political actors. San Francisco's mayor ordered an island in the bay quarantined; streets, streetcars, and public phones disinfected; shops, churches, and public spaces closed. Plainclothes police … Continue reading Political Accountability and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Taking Stock of Russian Economic History

The following remarks were prepared for a roundtable discussion at the annual meeting of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. I am a co-editor of the Broadstreet blog by virtue of a serendipitous discovery: a multivolume chronicle of the “peasant movement” in nineteenth-century Russia that I discovered in the Memorial Library at … Continue reading Taking Stock of Russian Economic History

Opium, Empire, and the Symbolic Capacity of Bureaucratic States

(Cover image of Empires of Vice, from an opium ledger for French Indochina, 1899-1908. Source: FM/INDO NF/88) The prohibition of opium across Southeast Asia was a great transformation in the history of modern empires and colonial state building. In dialogue with ongoing discussions on state capacity and archives as evidence in HPE research, this post … Continue reading Opium, Empire, and the Symbolic Capacity of Bureaucratic States

Love, Not War, Made the Chinese State

In today's post, I want to discuss social networks and state building -- two of our favorite topics on this blog. In particular, I focus on the relationship between kinship networks and state building. The conventional wisdom in the social sciences over the last century is that kinship-based institutions undermine state building. For instance, Max … Continue reading Love, Not War, Made the Chinese State