The economic rise of Europe over the past millennium represents a major human breakthrough. To explain this phenomenon, this talk highlights a counterintuitive yet central feature of Europe’s historical landscape: warfare. Historical warfare inflicted numerous costs on rural populations. Security was a traditional function of the city. To mitigate the rural costs of conflict, rural populations migrated to urban centers. Over time, the city’s historical role as a safe harbor translated into local economic development through several channels, including urban political freedoms and human capital accumulation. To make this argument, the speaker performs a wide-ranging analysis of a novel quantitative database that spans one thousand years, from the fall of the Carolingian Empire to today. The talk’s study of urban Europe’s historical path from warfare to wealth provides a new way to think about the process of long-run economic and political development.

Light lunch will be served.

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