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State Capacity and Military Conflict

  • Gennaioli, Nicola
  • Voth, Hans-Joachim

In 1500, Europe was composed of hundreds of statelets and principalities, with weak central authority, no monopoly over the legitimate use of violence, and multiple, overlapping levels of jurisdiction. By 1800, Europe had consolidated into a handful of powerful, centralized nation states. We build a model that simultaneously explains both the emergence of capable states and growing divergence between European powers. In our model, the impact of war on the European state system depends on: i) the importance of money for determining the war outcome (which stands for the cost of war), and ii) a country's initial level of domestic political fragmentation. We emphasize the role of the 'Military Revolution', which raised the cost of war. Initially, this caused more internally cohesive states to invest more in state capacity, while other (more divided) states rationally dropped out of the competition. This mechanism leads to both increasing divergence between European states, and greater average investments in state building on the continent overall.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8699.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8699
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  1. De Long, J Bradford & Shleifer, Andrei, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 671-702, October.
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  4. Karaman, K. Kivanç & Pamuk, Şevket, 2010. "Ottoman State Finances in European Perspective, 1500–1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(03), pages 593-629, September.
  5. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2009. "War and Relatedness," CESifo Working Paper Series 2696, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Landers, John, 2003. "The Field and the Forge: Population, Production, and Power in the Pre-industrial West," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199249169.
  7. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2007. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Castile's Fiscal Position, 1566-1596," Economics working papers drelichman-07-11-06-09-33, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 08 Apr 2010.
  8. Joachim Voth & Mauricio Drelichman, 2008. "Debt sustainability in historical perspective: The role of fiscal repression," Economics Working Papers 1184, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  9. Dincecco, Mark, 2009. "Fiscal Centralization, Limited Government, and Public Revenues in Europe, 1650–1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(01), pages 48-103, March.
  10. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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  11. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
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