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Pandemics, Places, and Populations: Evidence from the Black Death

Remi Jedwab (), Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama ()

No 13523, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers

Abstract: The Black Death killed 40% of Europe's population between 1347-1352, making it one of the largest shocks in history. Despite its importance, little is known about its spatial effects and the effects of pandemics more generally. Using a novel dataset that provides information on spatial variation in Plague mortality at the city level, as well as various identification strategies, we explore the short-run and long-run impacts of the Black Death on city growth. On average, cities recovered their pre-Plague populations within two centuries. In addition, aggregate convergence masked heterogeneity in urban recovery. We show that both of these facts are consistent with a Malthusian model in which population returns to high-mortality locations endowed with more rural and urban fixed factors of production. Land suitability and natural and historical trade networks played a vital role in urban recovery. Our study highlights the role played by pandemics in determining both the sizes and placements of populations.

Keywords: Black Death; cities; growth; Malthusian Theory. Migration; path dependence; Urbanization (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J11 N00 N13 O11 O47 R11 R12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-gro, nep-his, nep-lab and nep-ure
Date: 2019-02
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