Books Go Public: The Consequences of the Expropriation of Monastic Libraries on Innovation

63 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2024

See all articles by Paolo Buonanno

Paolo Buonanno

University of Bergamo - Department of Economics

Francesco Cinnirella

University of Bergamo; University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CAGE

Elona Harka

University of Bergamo

Marcello Puca

University of Bergamo; CSEF - University of Naples Federico II - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF)

Date Written: 2024

Abstract

Access to useful knowledge is crucial for fostering modern economic growth. We show, for the first time, that knowledge accumulated and stored in monasteries was useful for innovation. In 1866, anticlerical legislation in Italy led to the suppression of religious orders, the expropriation of their properties, and the transfer of their manuscripts to local public libraries. From a contemporary survey on public libraries, we construct a unique dataset on municipalities which received monastic volumes. This information is then linked to newly digitized annual data on patents issued in Italy between 1863 and 1883. Difference-in-differences estimates show that municipalities exposed to an influx of monastic manuscripts experienced a significant increase in innovation. The effect is driven by the increase in the number of manuscripts in previously existing libraries. We show that the innovation advantage also persisted in the long run and had no impact on human capital.

Keywords: books, manuscripts, knowledge, religion, monastery, libraries, patents

JEL Classification: N330, O300, Z120

Suggested Citation

Buonanno, Paolo and Cinnirella, Francesco and Harka, Elona and Puca, Marcello, Books Go Public: The Consequences of the Expropriation of Monastic Libraries on Innovation (2024). CESifo Working Paper No. 11015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4772588 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4772588

Paolo Buonanno (Contact Author)

University of Bergamo - Department of Economics ( email )

Via dei Caniana 2
Bergamo, Bergamo 24127
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.unibg.it/ugov/person/2913

Francesco Cinnirella

University of Bergamo ( email )

Via dei Caniana 2
Bergamo, 24129
Italy

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Poschingerstrasse 5
Munich, 81679
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

CAGE ( email )

Premier Business Centre
47-49 Park Royal Road
London, NW10 7LQ
United Kingdom

Elona Harka

University of Bergamo ( email )

Marcello Puca

University of Bergamo ( email )

Via dei Caniana 2
Bergamo, 24127
Italy

CSEF - University of Naples Federico II - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF) ( email )

Via Cintia
Complesso Monte S. Angelo
Naples, Naples 80126
Italy

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