The Long-Term Effects of the Printing Press in Sub-Saharan Africa

Julia Cage

Harvard University

Valeria Rueda

SciencesPo - Department of Economics

April 2014

This article delves into the relationship between newspaper readership and civic attitudes, and its effect on economic development. To this end, we investigate the long-term consequences of the introduction of the printing press in the 19th century. 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, within regions located close to missions, proximity to a printing press significantly increases newspaper readership today. We also document a strong association between proximity to a printing press and contemporary economic development. Our results are robust to a variety of identification strategies.

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, Z13

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Date posted: July 12, 2013 ; Last revised: May 7, 2014

Suggested Citation

Cage, Julia and Rueda, Valeria, The Long-Term Effects of the Printing Press in Sub-Saharan Africa (April 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2292660 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2292660

Contact Information

Julia Cage (Contact Author)
Harvard University ( email )
Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Valeria Rueda
SciencesPo - Department of Economics ( email )
27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
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