The Long-Term Effects of the Printing Press in Sub-Saharan Africa
47 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2013 Last revised: 7 May 2014
Date Written: April 2014
This article delves into the relationship between newspaper readership and civic attitudes, and its effect on economic development. To this end, we investigate the long-term consequences of the introduction of the printing press in the 19th century. In sub-Saharan Africa, Protestant missionaries were the first both to import the printing press technology and to allow the indigenous population to use it. We build a new geocoded dataset locating Protestant missions in 1903. This dataset includes, for each mission station, the geographic location and its characteristics, as well as the educational and health-related investments undertaken by the mission. We show that, within regions located close to missions, proximity to a printing press significantly increases newspaper readership today. We also document a strong association between proximity to a printing press and contemporary economic development. Our results are robust to a variety of identification strategies.
Keywords: printing press, Protestant missions, historical persistence, newspaper readership, political participation
JEL Classification: D72, N37, N77, O33, Z12, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation