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Local institutions and pandemics: city autonomy and the Black Death

Wang, Han and Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés ORCID: 0000-0002-8041-0856 (2021) Local institutions and pandemics: city autonomy and the Black Death. Applied Geography, 136. ISSN 0143-6228

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2021.102582

Abstract

Local institutions have long been regarded as key drivers of economic development. However, little is known about the role of institutions in preparing places to cope with public health crises and pandemics. This paper sheds light on how the nature of a local institution, city autonomy, influenced variations in the incidence of the Black Death —possibly the worst pandemic ever recorded— across cities in Western Europe between 1347 and 1352. We examine urban autonomy not only because it represented a major political shift in medieval times, but because, more importantly, it also represents a key prototype of modern political institution. By exploiting data on the spatial variation of Black Death's mortality rates and duration using OLS and 2SLS methods, we uncover that city autonomy reduced mortality rates by, on average, almost 10 percent. Autonomous cities were in a better position to adopt swift and efficient measures against the pandemic than those governed by remote kings and emperors. This relationship has been confirmed by a series of placebo tests and robustness checks. In contrast, there is no evidence to suggest that city autonomy was a factor in reducing the duration of the pandemic in European cities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/applied-geog...
Additional Information: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N4 - Government, War, Law, and Regulation > N43 - Europe: Pre-1913
N - Economic History > N9 - Regional and Urban History > N93 - Europe: Pre-1913
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O17 - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements: Legal, Social, Economic, and Political
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2021 13:30
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2021 01:11
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/112483

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