Currently, my research is centered around studying the long-run determinants of regional and urban development, political fragmentation as well as social capital. Additionally, I am concerned with the origins, evolution and consequences of historical political institutions and in cities. The regional focus of my current research projects is central Europe. The historical periods I am especially interested in are the late-Middle Ages and the early-modern period, as these were periods of signifcant changes in all aspects of the economic and social life in which the ground was layed for the later European growth take-off during the industrialization.
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals
Does European Development Have Roman Roots? Evidence from the German Limes, 2017, Journal of Economic Growth, forthcoming.
This paper contributes to the understanding of the long-run consequences of Roman rule on economic development. In ancient times, the area of contemporary Germany was divided into a Roman and non-Roman part. The study uses this division to test whether the formerly Roman part of Germany show a higher nighttime luminosity than the non-Roman part. This is done by using the Limes Germanicus wall as geographical discontinuity in a regression discontinuity design framework. The results indicate that economic development—as measured by luminosity—is indeed significantly and robustly larger in the formerly Roman part of Germany. The study identifies the persistence of the Roman road network until the present as an important factor causing this development advantage of the formerly Roman part of Germany both by fostering city growth and by allowing for a denser road network.
(older version at SSRN) (Replication files)
Does Medieval Trade Still Matter? Historical Trade Centers, Agglomeration and Contemporary Economic Development, 2016, Regional Science and Urban Economics, 60, pp. 50-60.
This study establishes a link between medieval trade, agglomeration and contemporary regional development in ten European countries. It documents a statistically and economically significant positive relationship between prominent involvement in medieval trade and regional economic development today. The analysis indicates that a long-lasting effect of medieval trade on contemporary regional development is indeed transmitted via its effect on agglomeration and industry concentration. Further empirical analyses show that medieval trade positively influenced city development both during the medieval period and in the long run; they also reveal a robust connection between medieval city growth and contemporary regional agglomeration and industry concentration. This research thus highlights the long-run importance of medieval trade in shaping the development of cities as well as the contemporary spatial distribution of economic activity throughout Europe. The path-dependent regional development processes caused by medieval commercial activities help explain the observed persistent regional development differences across the European countries considered.
(last working paper version at SSRN) (FZID Discussion Papers No. 82-2013) (Medieval Trade Data)
Participative Political Institutions in Pre-Modern Europe. Introducing a New Database, 2016, Historical Methods. A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 49 (2), pp. 67-79.
This paper introduces and describes a new city-level data set on political institutions in pre-modern Europe. To be precise, it presents three variables reporting the prevalence of the different existing types of participative political institutions between 800 AD and 1800 AD in 104 cities in central Europe (Alsace-Lorrain, Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland). According to the historical studies consulted the three included measures (intensity of guild participation in the city council, participative election procedures and the existence of institutionalized burgher representation) represent the universe of existing political institutions in cities in this era. This new data set is potentially useful for advancing knowledge in various ongoing research debates about e.g., the impact of political institutions and regimes on city development, the effects of guilds, the relationship of economic and political institutions and the debate about the advantages or disadvantages of city states relative to territorial states.
(latest working paper version at SSRN) (Data Set)
Extended Participative Political Institutions Database
Extended version of the above dataset containing information on political institutions in 325 cities in the HRE. I added additional information for 201 cities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland that had more than 5000 but less than 10000 inhabitants at least once in the period between 800-1800. Those cities are included in the Bairoch et al. (1988) city population data set but not in Bosker et al. (2013) database. I also added information on cities in Poland that were part of the HRE in 1500 AD and included in the Bairoch et al. database (20). Coding for these additional cities is based on the "Deutsche Städtebuch" (German Handbook of Cities), the "Österreichische Städtebuch" (Austrian Handbook of Cities) as well as the Historical Encyclopedia of Switzerland.
Die Entwicklung des Lebensstandards im Dritten Reich. Eine glücksökonomische Perspektive, 2013, Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Economic History Yearbook) 54 (1), pp. 89-110.
The goal of this paper is to provide an explanation for the remarkable difference in the contemporary Germans positive self-assessment of their living conditions and the development of the most important economic welfare indicators (like GDP or consumption per capita) during the Third Reich. To explain this discrepancy, findings of the new research field of happiness economics are applied to the peacetime of the Third Reich to analyze the development of the standard of living in this period. First, the theory of adaption and aspiration is used to explain the growing satisfaction of the Germans after the Great Depression. In the second step, based on current life satisfaction studies, the development of the most important economic determinants of happiness during the 1930s is examined.
(earlier working paper version)
You Reap What You Know: Observability of Soil Quality and Political Fragmentation, 2016, Berkeley Economic History Lab Working Paper No. 2016-05 (with Thilo R. Huning)
We provide a theoretical model linking limits to the observability of soil quality to state rulers’ ability to tax agricultural output, which leads to a higher political fragmentation. We introduce a spatial measure to quantify state planners’ observability in an agricultural society. The model is applied to spatial variation in the 1378 Holy Roman Empire, the area with the highest political fragmentation in European history. We find that differences in the observability of agricultural output explain the size and capacity of states as well as the emergence and longevity of city states. Grid cells with higher observability of agricultural output intersect with a significantly lower number of territories within them. Our results highlight the role of agriculture and geography, for size, political, and economic organization of states. This sheds light on early, though persistent, determinants of industrial development within Germany, and also within Central Europe.
(EHES Working Papers in Economic History, No. 101) (Presentation)
Illuminating the World Cup Effect: Night Lights Evidence from South Africa, 2017, Mimeo (with Gregor Pfeifer and Martyna Marczak)
This paper evaluates the economic impact of the $14 billion preparatory infrastructure investments for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. We use satellite data on night light luminosity at municipality and electoral district level as a proxy for economic development, applying synthetic control methods for estimation. For the World Cup municipality, we find significantly positive, short-run effects before the tournament, corresponding to a reduction of unemployment by 1.3 percentage points. At the electoral district level, we reveal distinct effect heterogeneity, where especially investments in transport infrastructure are shown to have long-lasting, positive effects, particularly in more rural areas.
Media Coverage: Sunday Times | htxt.africa | SciBraai.com | Press Report of the University of Hohenheim (in German)
(Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No-16-2016)
Older version of the paper was entitled "The Long Shadow of History. Roman Legacy and Economic Development---Evidence from the German Limes"
(SSRN) (Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No. 8-2015)
Origins of Political Change. Structural vs. Exogenous Factors as Cause of the Late Medieval Guild Revolts, 2015, Mimeo.
This study investigates the origins of guild revolts and guild participation in the government of late medieval central European cities. It finds that both structural factors, i.e. the prosperity of proto-industry as well as exogenous events like the agricultural crisis and the Black Death were important factors triggering the outbreak of the revolts and the turn towards more participative political institutions in the cities. Interestingly, important medieval trade cities had a lower probability of guild participation indicating that not economic institutions and prosperity per se is the decisive point but rather that formerly poor groups of citizens like craftsmen profit from the economic upswing. Hence, inclusive growth was the key for the emergence of participative political institutions in late medieval cities. At last, the study also finds evidence for the existence of spatial spillovers from the developments in neighboring cities implying that strategic considerations played a role in the spread of participative political institutions.
Older version of the paper was entitled "Origins of Political Change. Evidence from the Late-Medieval Guild Revolts"
(EHES Working Papers in Economic History, No. 69)
Political Change and Economic Development. Evidence from the Rise of Participative Political Institutions in the Late Medieval German Lands, 2015, Mimeo.
This study investigates the effect of the rise of participative political institutions---i.e, institutions in which groups of citizens previously excluded from political life participated in the political process---in late medieval central European cities on city development. The results show, that the enlargement of political participation is not always conducive to city development. The participation of guilds in the city council, for example had an overall neutral or negative effect (depending on the importance of the guilds). Furthermore, the effect of guild participation is declining over time, implying that this form of PPI is prone to institutional degeneration and increased rent-seeking. Election of city government by the citizens, in contrast, shows a stable and robustly positive effect on city development. Hence, the decisive point for more political participation being conducive for economic development is that the increase in participation is accompanied by increased accountability of the politicians and a politic that is oriented toward public welfare than the special interests of particular groups.
(SSRN) R&R European Review of Economic History
Older version of the paper was entitled "Participative Political Institutions and City Development 800-1800"
(SSRN) (EHES Working Papers in Economic History, No. 73)
Why It Matters What People Think. Colonization, Legal Origins and the Deep Roots of Trust, 2015, Mimeo.
This paper deals with the direction of causality between culture and formal institutions. It does so by analysing the causal relationship between legal origins (institutions) and trust (culture). It empirically investigates the deep historical roots of trust by constructing a proxy for the persistent component of trust. By making use of these persistent trust scores, and drawing on information about the exogenous or endogenous introduction of legal origins, it assesses whether trust is endogenous or exogenous to institutions or whether there is a two-way causality between both variables as it is suggested by recent theoretical studies. Here, it provides evidence that: (i) countries for which legal origins are endogenous developed different legal institutions depending on their persistent (ex-ante) trust values; and (ii) that the effects of an exogenous introduction of legal origins (through e.g. colonization) vary depending on persistent trust levels. In consequence, it concludes that there is a complex two-way causality between trust and legal origins. This result has important policy consequences, since it means that institutional change can be successful in the long-run only if it takes into account the already existing culture in the affected countries.
(SSRN) (FZID Discussion Paper No. 52-2012) (I do not work on this anymore)
Schlüsselbranche Maschinenbau. Ein mikrodatenbasierte Analyse, 2014, IAW Policy Reports No. 10 (with Raimund Krumm)
Work in Progress
Banks and Industrialization. Evidence from Saving Banks in 19th Century Prussia (with Sibylle Lehmann-Hasemeyer)
Origins and Consequences of Historical Water Mills in Germany (part of a lager project on First Movers Advantage in Economic History)