‘No Land without a Lord’: Lordships, State Capacity, and Economic Development

50 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2018

Date Written: March 1, 2018


This paper investigates the effect of a pivotal local political institution in medieval and modern Europe: the lordship. I collect data on seigneurial jurisdictions for ancien-regime Spain and document a negative relationship between having been a seigneurial town in the 18th century and current economic development. To shed light on the causal effect, I focus on the distribution of lordships in the former Kingdom of Granada after its conquest by the Catholic Monarchs, which can be considered as conditionally random. The results confirm the negative effect of lordship found for the whole country: towns that shortly after the conquest were granted to nobles are relatively poorer today. In addition, I explore the mechanisms of persistence, with the results pointing to lower state capacity as a main explanatory factor. This finding is consistent with an interpretation of seigneurial jurisdictions as a privatization of the local government, which has historically hindered the application of central government policies and lowered the state’s infrastructural capacity in former manorial towns.

Keywords: Lordships, Local political institutions, State capacity, Economic development

JEL Classification: C21, N43, O10

Suggested Citation

Oto‐Peralias, Daniel, ‘No Land without a Lord’: Lordships, State Capacity, and Economic Development (March 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3154008 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3154008

Daniel Oto‐Peralias (Contact Author)

Universidad Pablo de Olavide


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