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Climate Shocks, Dynastic Cycles, and Nomadic Conquests: Evidence from Historical China

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  • Qiang Chen

    () (School of Economics, Shandong University)

Abstract

Nomadic conquests have helped to shape world history, yet we know little about why they occurred. Using climate and dynastic data from historical China since 221 BCE, this study finds that the likelihood of nomadic conquest increased with less rainfall proxied by drought disasters, which drove pastoral nomads to attack agrarian Chinese for survival. Moreover, consistent with the dynastic cycle hypothesis, the likelihood of China being conquered increased when a Chinese dynasty was established earlier (and hence was weaker, on average) than a rival nomadic regime. These results survive a variety of robustness checks, including using the latitude of the Sino-nomadic border as an alternative dependent variable. The dynastic cycle effect also persists in an extension to world history. The effects of other climate shocks, such as snow, frost, and temperature anomaly, are not robust.

Suggested Citation

  • Qiang Chen, 2012. "Climate Shocks, Dynastic Cycles, and Nomadic Conquests: Evidence from Historical China," SDU Working Papers 2012-01, School of Economics, Shandong University.
  • Handle: RePEc:shn:wpaper:2012-01
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    File URL: http://econ.sdu.edu.cn/RePEc/shn/wpaper/nomadic_conquest.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Qiang Chen, 2014. "Natural Disasters, Ethnic Diversity, and the Size of Nations: Two Thousand Years of Unification and Division in Historical China," SDU Working Papers 2014-01, School of Economics, Shandong University.
    2. Qiang Chen, 2015. "Climate Shocks, State Capacity and Peasant Uprisings in North China during 25–1911 ce," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 82(326), pages 295-318, April.
    3. Ko, Chiu Yu & Koyama, Mark & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2014. "Unified China and Divided Europe," CEI Working Paper Series 2014-7, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Nomadic conquests; climate shocks; dynastic cycles;

    JEL classification:

    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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