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Towards an explanation of inequality in premodern societies: the role of colonies, urbanization, and high population density

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  • Branko Milanovic

Abstract

Using a newly expanded set of 41 social tables from premodern societies, this article tries to identify the factors associated with the level of inequality and the inequality extraction ratio (how close to the maximum inequality the elites have pushed actual inequality). Strong evidence is found to show that elites in colonies were more extractive, and that more densely populated and less urbanized countries exhibited lower extraction ratios. Several possibilities are proposed, linking high population density to low inequality and to low elite extraction.

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  • Branko Milanovic, 2018. "Towards an explanation of inequality in premodern societies: the role of colonies, urbanization, and high population density," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1029-1047, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:71:y:2018:i:4:p:1029-1047
    DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12613
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    Cited by:

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    2. Schaff, Felix, 2020. "When ‘the state made war’, what happened to economic inequality? Evidence from preindustrial Germany (c.1400-1800)," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 107046, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Facundo Alvaredo & Denis Cogneau & Thomas Piketty, 2020. "Income Inequality under Colonial Rule: Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and comparisons with British colonies 1920-1960," Working Papers halshs-03022276, HAL.
    4. Laura Panza & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2019. "Always Egalitarian? Australian Earnings Inequality c1870," CEH Discussion Papers 01, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    5. Panza, Laura & Williamson, Jeffrey G, 2019. "Always Egalitarian? Australian Earnings Inequality 1870-1910," CEPR Discussion Papers 13520, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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