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Political Centralization in Pre-Colonial Africa

Philip Osafo-Kwaako and James Robinson

No 18770, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: In this paper we investigate the empirical correlates of political centralization using data from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample. We specifically investigate the explanatory power of the standard models of Eurasian state formation which emphasize the importance of high population density, inter-state warfare and trade as factors leading to political centralization. We find that while in the whole world sample these factors are indeed positively correlated with political centralization, this is not so in the African sub-sample. Indeed, none of the variables are statistically related to political centralization. We also provide evidence that political centralization, where it took place, was indeed associated with better public goods and development outcomes. We conclude that the evidence is quite consistent with the intellectual tradition initiated in social anthropology by Evans-Pritchard and Fortes in the 1940s which denied the utility of Eurasian models in explaining patterns of political centralization in Africa.

JEL-codes: N17 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-cdm, nep-dev, nep-his and nep-pol
Note: DAE
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (40)

Published as Journal of Comparative Economics Volume 41, Issue 1, February 2013, Pages 6–21 Symposium in Honor of Thrainn Eggertson Cover image Political centralization in pre-colonial Africa Philip Osafo-Kwaakoa, , , James A. Robinsonb,

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