When Strength Becomes Weakness: Precolonial State Development, Monopoly on Violence, and Civil War



Does the legacy of precolonial statehood affect contemporary levels of civil conflict outside Europe? I argue that places with higher levels of precolonial state development were more likely to end up as weak modern-day states because precolonial state structures and authority structures established by European colonizers came to exist in parallel. This created opportunities and motivation for civil conflict still present in many countries today. I illustrate the argument in the cases of India, Burma, and Ethiopia and test it statistically in a global sample covering 109 countries outside Europe. The results strongly support the theory. Countries with higher levels of state development 3500 BCE–1500 CE have weaker state monopolies on violence and markedly higher levels of intrastate armed conflict in modern times (1946–2018). The findings remain robust across numerous alternative specifications, including using the timing of the Neolithic Revolution as an instrument.
Date made available2023
PublisherSage Journals

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