Sep 25, 2013

Self-government and Long Term Persistence of Institutions (Italy)

From a paper by Luigi Guiso, Paola Sapienza, & Luigi Zingales. 
We show that cities that experienced self-government in the Middle Ages have more civic capital today [from the abstract]. 
Our reading of medieval history (among others, Reynolds, 1997; Milani, 2005; Jones, 1997; Tabacco, 1987; Pirenne, 1956) suggests that bishops played a key role in coordinating local citizens in their struggle against the Emperor for independence. Therefore, we use the presence of a bishop before the year 1000 as one predictor of eventual free city-state status [p. 4]. 
Another natural factor is strategic military position. Cities on hilltops or surrounded by waters were easier to defend militarily and hence more likely to succeed in rebelling against the Emperor and becoming independent. As a proxy for strategic position we use foundation by the Etruscans. The Etruscans (ninth century BCE), who populated an area stretching from Mantua in the North to Salerno in the South, were the first Italian civilization to be organized in the form of city-states. Since they had “first mover” advantage, they tended to locate their cities in positions that were easy to defend, so that Etruscan origin is a good proxy for strategic location, as the picture of their capital Orvieto (Figure 1 in the Appendix) suggests [p. 4].
HT: Fabio Sabatini

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