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Land rights, local financial development and industrial activity: evidence from Flanders (nineteenth–early twentieth century)

Nicolas Devijlder and Koen Schoors ()
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Nicolas Devijlder: Universiteit Gent
Koen Schoors: Universiteit Gent

Cliometrica, 2020, vol. 14, issue 3, No 4, 507-550

Abstract: Abstract In this paper, we investigate the hypothesis that the economic divergence across Flemish localities between 1830 and 1910 is explained by the theory of Hernando de Soto. We hypothesize that the uniform land rights installed after the French revolution provided borrowers with an attractive form of collateral. Conditional on the presence of local financial development provided by a new government-owned bank this eased access to external finance and fostered industrial and commercial economic activity. Using primary historical data of about 1179 localities in Flanders, we find that the variation in the local value of land (collateral) and the variation in local financial development jointly explain a substantial amount of the variation in non-agricultural employment accumulated between 1830 and 1910. By 1910, industrial and commercial economic activity was more developed in localities where both early (1846) rural land prices were high and early (1880) local financial development was more pronounced, which is in line with the ‘de Soto’ hypothesis.

Keywords: De Soto; Financial institutions; Industrial development; Land prices; Flanders; Nineteenth to twentieth centuries (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N93 O43 R11 R12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11698-019-00196-9

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