Maintaining Peace Across Ethnic Lines: New Lessons from the Past

Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 81-93, 2007

10 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2008

See all articles by Saumitra Jha

Saumitra Jha

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: July 7, 2007

Abstract

This policy overview draws upon two studies, one theoretical and one empirical, to explore lessons from medieval Indian Ocean trade for supporting ethnic tolerance in contemporary settings. The overview begins by sketching a model of inter-ethnic trade and violence in environments where there are "local" and "non-local" ethnic groups. The model suggests that three conditions are necessary to support peaceful coexistence between these groups over time: complementarities between groups, a high cost to replicate or expropriate the source of another group's complementarity, and a mechanism to share the gains from inter-group exchange. The article then describes how these conditions were satisfied among Hindus and Muslim traders in medieval Indian ports from the rise of Islam to European ascendance in the 17th century. The paper characterises the institutions that emerged to bolster religious tolerance in these towns during the medieval period and that continued to support religious tolerance two centuries after the decline of Muslim dominance in overseas trade. Finally, the paper draws lessons from the theory and India's institutional legacy to understand why ethnic tolerance fails and how tolerance may be fostered in contemporary settings.

Keywords: Trade, Institutions, Religion, Cities, Ethnic Conflict, Peace

JEL Classification: N25, O18, Z12, F10

Suggested Citation

Jha, Saumitra, Maintaining Peace Across Ethnic Lines: New Lessons from the Past (July 7, 2007). Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 81-93, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1245382

Saumitra Jha (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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