Seminar December 1, 2014
The Geographical Origins of Early State Formation
This research theoretically and empirically advances the hypothesis that in early stages of development, land and climatic variability had a persistent beneficial effect on the advent of early statehood. A high degree of land and climatic diversity, and its association with potential gains from trade, accentuated the incentives to develop social, political and physical infrastructure that could facilitate interregional interaction. Hence, the emergence of states was expedited in more diverse geographical environments. To explore the hypotheses the analysis exploits exogenous sources of variation in a) the measure of land variability across countries, and b) climatic variability within countries over the period 500-1500 CE. The research establishes that i) the advent of statehood was expedited in regions characterized by a higher degree of variability in land and climatic conditions, ii) the effect of (land and climatic) variability on statehood operates partly through the advancement of technologies associated with trade, thus suggesting that it is the pivotal role of states in facilitating trade that ultimately contributed to their emergence and consolidation, and, iii) the effect of land variability on statehood dissipates over time.
Contact: Battista Severgnini and Cédric Schneider