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Harbingers of dissolution? Grain prices, borders and nationalism in the Habsburg economy before the First World War

  • Wolf, Nikolaus
  • Schulze, Max-Stephan

This paper explores the pre-First World War Austro-Hungarian economy as a prominent case where growing conflict between various ethnic and national groups within an empire might have contributed to the emergence of internal borders and even its eventual dissolution. To this end we adopt an Engel-and-Rogers–type approach to examine on an annual basis the extent of co-movements in grain prices across a sample of ten regional capital cities in the empire and over the period 1877-1910. There are two key findings. First, the political borders that emerged from 1918 onwards became visible in the price dynamics of grain markets already 20 years before the Great War. Second, this effect of a “border before a border” can be explained by the extent of language heterogeneity across the various parts of the Habsburg Empire. These results raise several important questions about both the forces that shaped pre-war market integration as well as the economic costs of breaking up the Habsburg customs union after 1918.

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Paper provided by Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 2005/20.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:200520
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  1. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
  2. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 1995. "How wide is the border?," Research Working Paper 95-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  3. James E. Rauch & Vitor Trindade, 1999. "Ethnic Chinese Networks in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 7189, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Trenkler, Carsten & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2004. "Economic integration across borders : the Polish interwar economy 1921-1937," Papers 2004,38, Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Center for Applied Statistics and Economics (CASE).
  5. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers & Shing-Yi B. Wang, 2003. "Revisiting the Border: an assessment of the law of one price using very disaggregated consumer price data," International Finance Discussion Papers 777, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  7. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Lafourcade, Miren & Mayer, Thierry, 2005. "The trade-creating effects of business and social networks: evidence from France," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 1-29, May.
  8. Wolf, Nikolaus, 2005. "Path dependent border effects: the case of Poland's reunification (1918-1939)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 414-438, July.
  9. John Komlos, 1983. "The Habsburg Monarchy as a Customs Union: Economic Development in Austria-Hungary in the Nineteenth Century," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 4, Jul-Oct.
  10. James E. Rauch, 2001. "Business and Social Networks in International Trade," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1177-1203, December.
  11. McCallum, John, 1995. "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 615-23, June.
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