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Plague and long-term development: the lasting effects of the 1629-30 epidemic on the Italian cities

  • Guido Alfani
  • Marco percoco

The paper aims to analyze the effects of plague on the long-term development of Italian cities, with particular attention to the 1629-30 epidemic. By using a new dataset on plague mortality rates in 49 cities covering the period 1575-1700 ca., an economic geography model verifying the existence of multiple equilibria is estimated. It is found that cities affected only by the 1629-30 plague recovered in the short run, whereas cities affected by both the 1575-77 and 1629-30 epidemic show persistent decline in the long run. This new finding contrasts with previous literature and is hence interpreted in the light of the new concept of “urban frailty”. Keywords: Plague, Italian cities, Urban development, Urban demography, Multiple equilibria, Early modern period, Mortality crises.

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Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 508.

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Date of creation: 2014
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:508
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  1. Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen & Marc Schramm, 2004. "The strategic bombing of German cities during World War II and its impact on city growth," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 201-218, April.
  2. Guido Alfani, 2013. "Plague in seventeenth-century Europe and the decline of Italy: an epidemiological hypothesis," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 408-430, November.
  3. Malanima, Paolo, 2005. "Urbanisation and the Italian economy during the last millennium," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(01), pages 97-122, April.
  4. Marco Percoco, 2014. "Path dependence, institutions and the density of economic activities: Evidence from Italian cities," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(1), pages 53-76, 03.
  5. Marco Percoco, 2012. "Entrepreneurship, Social Capital and Institutions: Evidence from Italy," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(3), pages 339-355, September.
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