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"Hombres que entre las raíces": Plantation colonies, slave rebellions and land redistribution in Saint Domingue and Cuba at the late colonial period, c. 1750 c. 1860

  • Miguel Laborda Pemn

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    In the last years, the work by Engerman and Sokoloff (ES) on the divergent development paths within the Americas has provided an important backing to the institutionalist school. In line with the work by Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, ES assume the existence of institutional persistence: once accepted the resilient nature of the institutional framework, it becomes easier to trace a link between an adverse colonial heritage and an unsatisfactory economic performance at present. Nevertheless, this interpretation, satisfactory as it is at the big picture level, may also obscure both the presence of noteworthy causal relations and the agency of other actors. I am concerned with two questions. First: How to explain substantial differences in economic performance (particularly, land inequality) between ESs same type of colony? Second: Is it possible to include the role of non-European agency in the development narrative? The comparative study of the plantation economies of Saint Domingue and Cuba at the late colonial period sheds light on these issues. The intrinsic instability of the plantation colonies and, in some cases, the outbreak of slave rebellions with their visible impact on the institutions and the economic performance suggest more nuanced analysis. I conclude that the recognition of both political economy factors and non-European agency in the process of economic change could benefit ongoing research on the (colonial) origins of comparative development.

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    Paper provided by Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria in its series Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria with number 1102.

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    Length: 48 pages
    Date of creation: Feb 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:seh:wpaper:1102
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.seha.info

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    1. Kenneth L. Sokoloff & Eric M. Zolt, 2007. "Inequality and the Evolution of Institutions of Taxation: Evidence from the Economic History of the Americas," NBER Chapters, in: The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises, pages 83-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. C. A. Bayly, 2008. "Indigenous and Colonial Origins of Comparative Economic Development: The Case of Colonial India and Africa," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 5908, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2007. "Lost decades? Independence and latin America’s falling behind, 1820-1870," Working Papers in Economic History wp07-18, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. E.H.P. Frankema, 2005. "The Colonial Origins of Inequality: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Land Distribution," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 119, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
    7. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2001. "The Evolution of Suffrage Institutions in the New World," NBER Working Papers 8512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1970. "An Economic Theory of the Growth of the Western World," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 23(1), pages 1-17, 04.
    9. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2003. "Institutional and Non-Institutional Explanations of Economic Differences," NBER Working Papers 9989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Weingast, Barry R, 1995. "The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-31, April.
    11. Pranab Bardhan, 2005. "Institutions matter, but which ones?," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 13(3), pages 499-532, 07.
    12. Rodriguez, JoseL., 1987. "Agricultural policy and development in Cuba," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 23-39, January.
    13. Bayly, C. A., 2008. "Indigenous and colonial origins of comparative economic development : the case of colonial India and Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4474, The World Bank.
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