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Encomienda, the colonial state, and long-run development in Colombia

Faguet, Jean-Paul ORCID: 0000-0002-7188-0098, Matajira, Camilo and Sánchez, Fabio (2024) Encomienda, the colonial state, and long-run development in Colombia. .

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The Spanish encomienda, a colonial forced-labour institution that lasted three centuries, killed many indigenous people and caused others to flee into nomadism. What were its long-term effects? We digitize a great deal of historical data from the mid-1500s onwards and reconstruct the Spanish conquerors’ route through Colombia using detailed topographical features to calculate their least-cost path. We show that Colombian municipalities with encomiendas in 1560 enjoy better outcomes today across multiple dimensions of development than those without: higher municipal GDP per capita, tax receipts, and educational attainment; lower infant mortality, poverty, and unsatisfied basic needs; larger populations; and superior fiscal performance and bureaucratic efficiency, but also higher inequality. Why? Two mediation exercises using data on local institutions, populations and racial composition in 1794 shows that encomiendas affected development primarily by helping build the local state. Deep historical evidence fleshes out how encomenderos founded local institutions early on in the places they settled. Places lacking encomiendas also lacked local states for 3-4 centuries. Local institutions mobilized public investment in ways that doubtless suited encomenderos, but, over time, spurred greater economic and human development.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s)
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
F History United States, Canada, Latin America
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N36 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Latin America; Caribbean
N - Economic History > N9 - Regional and Urban History > N96 - Latin America; Caribbean
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O10 - General
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O4 - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity > O40 - General
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2024 15:48
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:35

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