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Maintaining peace across ethnic lines: New lessons from the past


  • Saumitra Jha

    () (Harvard University)


This policy overview draws upon two studies, one theoretical and one empirical, to explore lessons from medieval Indian Ocean trade for supporting ethnic tolerance in contemporary settings. The overview begins by sketching a model of inter-ethnic trade and violence in environments where there are “local and “non-local ethnic groups. The model suggests that three conditions are necessary to support peaceful coexistence between these groups over time: complementarities between groups, a high cost to replicate or expropriate the source of another group’s complementarity, and a mechanism to share the gains from inter-group exchange. The article then describes how these conditions were satisfied among Hindu and Muslim traders in medieval Indian ports from the rise of Islam to European ascendance in the 17th century. The article characterizes the institutions that emerged to bolster religious tolerance in these towns during the medieval period and that continued to support religious tolerance two centuries after the decline of Muslim dominance in overseas trade. Finally, the article draws lessons from the theory and India’s institutional legacy to understand why ethnic tolerance fails and how tolerance may be fostered in contemporary settings.

Suggested Citation

  • Saumitra Jha, 2007. "Maintaining peace across ethnic lines: New lessons from the past," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 2(2), pages 89-93, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:epc:journl:v:2:y:2007:i:2:p:89-93

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    1. repec:epc:journl:v:12:y:2017:i:2:p:21-31 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:bpj:pepspp:v:23:y:2017:i:2:p:14:n:5 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Remi Jedwab & Mark Koyama & Noel Johnson, "undated". "Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death," Working Papers 2017-4, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    4. Grosfeld, Irena & Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan & Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, 2017. "Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire," CEPR Discussion Papers 12154, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item


    Ethnic conflict; peace; institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development


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