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Media, Markets and Institutional Change: Evidence from the Protestant Reformation

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  • Jeremiah Dittmar
  • Skipper Seabold

Abstract

This research studies the role of competition in the diffusion of radical ideas and institutional change during the Protestant Reformation. We construct a new measure of religious content in the media using data on all known books and pamphlets printed in German-speaking Europe 1454-1600. We find that Protestant content was produced in greater quantity in local media markets with more competing firms when Martin Luther circulated his initial arguments for reform in 1517. We find that competition mattered differentially more for the diffusion of Protestant ideas and for institutional change where city governments had the least legal autonomy from feudal lords. We document the relationship between competition and diffusion directly and using the deaths of printers to isolate plausibly exogenous variation in competition. We show that cities where initial competition was greater, and which were more exposed to Protestant ideas, were more likely to adopt the legal institutions of the Reformation.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremiah Dittmar & Skipper Seabold, 2015. "Media, Markets and Institutional Change: Evidence from the Protestant Reformation," CEP Discussion Papers dp1367, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1367
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    File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1367.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
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    6. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
    7. Jeremiah E. Dittmar, 2011. "Information Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of The Printing Press," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1133-1172.
    8. Jeremiah Dittmar, 2015. "New Media, Competition and Growth: European Cities After Gutenberg," CEP Discussion Papers dp1365, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    9. Sascha O. Becker & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2011. "Education and Catch-Up in the Industrial Revolution," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 92-126, July.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Becker, Sascha O. & Pfaff, Steven & Rubin, Jared, 2016. "Causes and consequences of the Protestant Reformation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-25.
    2. Comino, Stefano & Galasso, Alberto & Graziano, Clara, 2017. "The Diffusion of New Institutions: Evidence from Renaissance Venice's Patent System," CEPR Discussion Papers 12102, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Ran Abramitzky, 2015. "Economics and the Modern Economic Historian," NBER Working Papers 21636, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    competition; firms; media; technology; institutions; religion; politics; high-dimensional data;

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N94 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • C55 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Large Data Sets: Modeling and Analysis

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