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Catholic Censorship and the Demise of Knowledge Production in Early Modern Italy

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  • Fabio Blasutto

    (Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

  • David de la Croix

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

Abstract

Censorship makes new ideas less available to others, but also reduces the share of people choosing to develop non-compliant ideas. We propose a new method to measure the effect of censorship on knowledge growth, accounting for the agents' choice between compliant and non-compliant occupations. We apply our method to the Catholic Church's censorship of books written by members of Italian universities and academies over the period 1400-1750. We highlight two new facts: once censorship was introduced, censored authors were of better quality than the non-censored authors, but this gap shrank over time, and the intensity of censorship decreased over time. These facts are used to identify the deep parameters of a novel endogenous growth model linking censorship to knowledge diffusion and occupational choice. We conclude that censorship reduced by 34% the average log publication per scholar in Italy, while adverse macroeoconomic processes are responsible for another 9% reduction. Interestingly, the induced reallocation of talents towards compliant activities explains half the effect of censorship.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabio Blasutto & David de la Croix, 2022. "Catholic Censorship and the Demise of Knowledge Production in Early Modern Italy," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2022011, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2022011
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    Cited by:

    1. Benito Arruñada & Lucas López-Manuel, 2024. "The medieval church and the foundations of impersonal exchange," Economics Working Papers 1885, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Censorship; Upper-Tail Human Capital; Publications; Scholars; Early Modern Italy; Occupational Choice;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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