Macrohistory Seminar – Ola Olsson (University of Gothenburg)

Event details

  • Thursday, November 10
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

Roman Roads to Prosperity? The Long-Run Impact of Infrastructure on Economic Activity

This study documents that local areas which received Roman road investments as an exogenous intervention during antiquity, systematically have outgrown areas that did not during the past two millennia. In particular, we find evidence of divergence in terms of urban population size taking place between the 13th century (more than a millennium after the roads were constructed) and the middle of the 19th century. On average, the urban population in grid cells with a Roman road grew at a 0.33 percent faster rate per year than the population in grid cells without roads. We also find an impact from Roman roads on economic activity in the beginning of the 21st century. The road-related divergence cannot be ascribed to underlying differences in geographical fundamentals, such as proximity to coast, major river or latitude. This persistence over two millennia is particularly striking considering that the western Roman empire collapsed already in the 5th century CE. We identify the emergence of bishoprics, universities, and modern roads along the same routes, as key intermediate mechanisms.

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