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HISTROOTS Report Summary

Project ID: 647514
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HISTROOTS (HISTORICAL ROOTS OF CONFLICT AND DEVELOPMENT: FROM PREHISTORY TO THE COLONIZATION EXPERIENCE)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

HISTROOTS plans to study the effect of history on conflict and economic development with an historical microscope. Following the lead of the new institutional economics, part of the literature argues that institutions cause differences in productivity and factor endowments which, in turn, explain economic development. An alternative view assumes that human capital shapes institutional changes and, therefore, institutions are endogenous. This project tries to move one step further in this debate by taking an approach that uses administrative data on the first colonizers of Latin America. The data contains some personal characteristics on each of the settlers from 1492 to 1540 (town of origin in Spain, occupation, education, city of arrival in the Americas, etc). Using within-country analysis, since we have information on the precise destinations of the first “pobladores” (settlers), and the different institutional set-ups during the first years of colonization for different geographical areas in Latin America, HISTROOTS will reexamine the issue of institutions versus human capital in the explanation of economic development and conflict. The institutions in the initial times of colonization were not the same in all the regions of Latin America and, in many cases, represented an evolution of pre-Colombian institutions. The new data allows also the analysis of the interaction between human capital and institutions in the initial times.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The first period of the project has been concentrated on data collection.
The “Archivo de Indias” provides the best source of information on the first Europeans who moved to America. In this archive, it is possible to obtain data on the first colonizers of Latin America, including their name, city of origin, city of destination, occupation, family, etc. These data has allowed the construction of a dataset that could qualify the level of instruction of the first colonizers and break the simplistic assimilation of European origin with human capital.
I have also been able to locate the European migrants in Latin America in subnational areas which, given the administrative information available for each of them, allows me to determine the share of European colonizers by occupation. This part has been really difficult because some of the names of the cities have changed, so we had to keep track on each settlement to know the name that has today in order to be able to Geo-localize it.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

To date, there is accumulating evidence that colonial history matters for today's development. However, the relative role of human capital and institutions in the explanation of the colonial origins of economic development has generated lengthy debate among economists. The basic problem of disentangling HOW colonization took place, versus WHO were the colonizers is at the core of this debate. There is also an interesting question concerning the possibility of interactions between both explanations. The question is whether colonizers, when they settled, brought with them good/bad institutions, a particular type of human capital, an institutional set-up that, combined with human capital, was more prone to long-run economic development or even the importance of pre-colonization institutions and their influence on the institutional set-up of colonizers.
In this project I will try to move one step further in this debate by taking an approach that uses administrative data on the first colonizers of Latin America, and using within-country analysis since we have information on the precise destinations of the first “pobladores” (settlers) and different institutional set-ups for different geographical areas in Latin America. Those data also contain some personal characteristics of each of the settlers such as occupation and migrations inside Latin America. As far as I am aware, this will be the first time that information on human capital of the first colonizers will have been used for economic research. The advantages and potential of this information opens up many possibilities for a new ground-breaking research agenda on the study of the colonial origins of economic development.
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