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Gifts of Mars: Warfare and Europe's early rise to riches

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  • Nico Voigtländer
  • Joachim Voth

Abstract

Today, per capita income differences around the globe are large – varying by as much as a factor of 35 across countries (Hall and Jones 1999). These differentials mostly reflect the "Great Divergence" (Sam Huntingon) – the fact that Western Europe and former European colonies grew rapidly after 1800, while other countries grew much later or stagnated. What is less well-known is that a "First Divergence" preceded the Great Divergence: Western Europe surged ahead of the rest of the world long before technological growth became rapid. Europe in 1500 was already twice as rich on a per capita basis as Africa, and one-third richer than most of Asia (Maddison 2007). In this essay, we explain how Europe's tumultuous politics and deadly penchant for warfare translated into a sustained advantage in per capita incomes.

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  • Nico Voigtländer & Joachim Voth, 2013. "Gifts of Mars: Warfare and Europe's early rise to riches," Economics Working Papers 1383, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1383
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    2. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2016. "“The Last, the Most Dreadful Resource of Nature”: Economic-Historical Reflections on Famine," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 44(2), pages 225-241, June.
    3. Murshed Syed Mansoob, 2020. "Capitalism and COVID-19: Crisis at the Crossroads," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 26(3), pages 1-08, September.
    4. Traviss Cassidy & Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, 2015. "The Economic Legacy of Warfare: Evidence from European Regions," Working Papers 6/2015, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, revised Jul 2015.
    5. Davide Fiaschi & Tamara Fioroni, 2014. "Transition to Modern Growth: the Role of Technological Progress and Adult Mortality," Discussion Papers 2014/186, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    6. Leandro Prados de la Escosura & Carlos Álvarez-Nogal & Carlos Santiago-Caballero, 2022. "Growth recurring in preindustrial Spain?," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 16(2), pages 215-241, May.
    7. Coccia, Mario, 2015. "General sources of general purpose technologies in complex societies: Theory of global leadership-driven innovation, warfare and human development," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 199-226.
    8. S Mansoob Murshed, 2021. "Reformulating Jan Tinbergen’s normative vision on welfare and security," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 58(5), pages 962-972, September.
    9. Ho, Chi Pui, 2016. "Industrious Selection: Explaining Five Revolutions and Two Divergences in Eurasian Economic History within a Unified Growth Framework," MPRA Paper 73862, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    11. Mushed, Syed Mansoob & Tadjoeddin, Mohammad Zulfan, 2015. "Political economy of the Indonesian mass killing of 1965-1966," MPRA Paper 64878, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Onorato, 2013. "Military conflict and the economic rise of urban Europe," Working Papers 14006, Economic History Society.
    13. Sellars, Emily A. & Alix-Garcia, Jennifer, 2018. "Labor scarcity, land tenure, and historical legacy: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 504-516.
    14. Bell, Clive & Gersbach, Hans & Komarov, Evgenij, 2019. "Untimely Destruction: Pestilence, War and Accumulation in the Long Run," IZA Discussion Papers 12680, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, 2016. "Military conflict and the rise of urban Europe," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 259-282, September.
    16. Oto-Peralías, Daniel, 2020. "Frontiers, warfare and economic geography: The case of Spain," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    17. Jordan Adamson, 2021. "The scope of political jurisdictions and violence: theory and evidence from Africa," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 186(3), pages 467-490, March.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - 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
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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