The Long-Term Effects of the Printing Press in Sub-Saharan Africa
July 11, 2013
This article examines the long-term consequences of the introduction of the printing press in the 19th century on newspaper readership and other civic attitudes in sub-Saharan Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, Protestant missionaries were the first both to import the printing press technology and to allow the indigenous population to use it. We build a new geocoded dataset locating Protestant missions in 1903. This dataset includes, for each mission station, the geographic location and its characteristics, as well as the educational and health related investments undertaken by the mission. We show that proximity to a historical missionary settlement endowed with a printing press significantly increases newspaper readership today within regions located close to historical mission settlements. We also find a positive impact on political participation at the community level. Results are robust to a variety of identification strategies that attempt to address the potential endogenous selection of missions into printing and externalities on education and literacy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: printing press, Protestant missions, historical persistence, newspaper readership, political participation
JEL Classification: D72, N37, N77, O33, Z12, Z13working papers series
Date posted: July 12, 2013
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