The Dynamic Consequences of State-Building: Evidence from the French Revolution

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 406

94 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2022

See all articles by Cédric Chambru

Cédric Chambru

Université Lyon 1 - Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon

Emeric Henry

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po)

Benjamin Marx

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 1, 2022

Abstract

How do radical reforms of the state shape economic development over time? In 1790, France’s first
Constituent Assembly overhauled the kingdom’s organization to set up new administrative entities
and local capitals. In a subset of departments, new capitals were chosen quasi-randomly as the Assembly abandoned its initial plan to rotate administrative functions across multiple cities. We study how exogenous changes in local administrative presence affect the state’s coercive and productive capacity, as well as economic development in the ensuing decades. In the short run, proximity to the state increases taxation, conscription, and investments in law enforcement capacity. In the long run, the new capitals and their periphery obtain more public goods and experience faster economic development. One hundred years after the reform, capitals are 40% more populated than comparable cities in 1790. Our results shed new light on the intertemporal and redistributive impacts of state-building in the context of one of the most ambitious administrative reforms ever implemented.

Keywords: State capacity, state-building, administrative reform, economic development

JEL Classification: D70, H41, H71, O18, O43

Suggested Citation

Chambru, Cédric and Henry, Emeric and Marx, Benjamin, The Dynamic Consequences of State-Building: Evidence from the French Revolution (February 1, 2022). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 406, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4046820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4046820

Cédric Chambru (Contact Author)

Université Lyon 1 - Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon ( email )

15, parvis Rene Descartes BP 7000
Lyon Cedex 07, 69342
France

Emeric Henry

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
France

Benjamin Marx

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

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