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The economics of early warfare over land

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  • Dow, Gregory K.
  • Mitchell, Leanna
  • Reed, Clyde G.

Abstract

We investigate the incidence of early warfare among foragers and farmers in prehistory. Our focus is specifically on conflict over land. Food is produced using inputs of labor and land, and the probability of victory in a conflict depends on relative group sizes. The group sizes are determined by individual migration and Malthusian population dynamics. Both factors result in larger populations at better sites, which deters attack. There are two necessary conditions for warfare: high enough individual mobility costs and large enough shocks to the relative productivities of the sites. Together, these conditions are sufficient. In particular, technological or environmental shocks that alter the productivities of sites can trigger warfare, but only if individual agents do not change sites in response. These results are consistent with evidence from archaeology and anthropology.

Suggested Citation

  • Dow, Gregory K. & Mitchell, Leanna & Reed, Clyde G., 2017. "The economics of early warfare over land," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 297-305.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:297-305
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2017.04.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Gregory K. Dow & Clyde G. Reed & Simon Woodcock, 2016. "The Economics Of Exogamous Marriage In Small-Scale Societies," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1805-1823, October.
    4. Gregory K. Dow & Clyde G. Reed, 2013. "The Origins of Inequality: Insiders, Outsiders, Elites, and Commoners," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(3), pages 609-641.
    5. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(3), pages 379-414, July.
    6. Dow, Gregory K. & Reed, Clyde G., 2015. "The origins of sedentism: Climate, population, and technology," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 56-71.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    N40; O10; P48; Q54; War; Peace; Economic prehistory; Migration; Malthus; Population; Climate change; Foraging; Hunting and gathering; Agriculture; Sedentism; Archaeology; Anthropology;

    JEL classification:

    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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