Agricultural Suitability and Colonization Choices
44 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018
Date Written: April 11, 2018
Historical evidence indicates that the quest for new territories by the Western European colonizers was driven by a strong incentive to produce sugar, tea, timber, and other commodities. Once arrived, settlers also had a clear interest in becoming self-sufficient in food. This paper establishes that the timing and duration of colonization by the Western European powers were strongly influenced by regional agro-ecological factors. In particular, the potential average crop yield is shown to have a robust effect on both the timing and duration of colonization. Areas with higher agricultural productivity tended to be colonized earlier and for a more extended duration. The findings are robust to controlling for multiple indicators of early development, geographical and ecological conditions, selection issues, and to the utilization of the Cox stratified proportional hazard model. Finally, we provide initial evidence that via its effect on the duration of colonization, agricultural productivity influences contemporary levels of democracy, income inequality, and human capital.
Keywords: Colonization; Duration; Agriculture; Productivity; Crop Yield; Columbian Exchange; Food; Development
JEL Classification: N00; O10; O57
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation