On the Persistent Effects of the Slave Trade on Postcolonial Politics in Africa

54 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021 Last revised: 10 Mar 2021

See all articles by Gaku Ito

Gaku Ito

Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences and NERPS, Hiroshima University

Date Written: November 1, 2020

Abstract

Why does the disruption of traditional institutions and communities shape subsequent political outcomes? I argue that the demographic shock to indigenous societies induced by Africa's slave trades influences postcolonial politics by improving ethnic institutions and leadership, thereby affecting the coup-civil war trade-off and the underlying commitment problems. The empirical analysis leverages land soil suitability for cassava cultivation to exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the ethnic group-level exposure to slave raids. The main findings are four-fold: Ethnic groups with greater slave raid exposure are (1) more likely to be included in state power-sharing schemes, (2) less likely to experience battle incidents within their traditional homelands, and (3) less likely to fight civil wars against the central government while (4) more likely to stage coups in postcolonial states. Falsification tests exploiting the timing of cassava's arrival in Africa and the regional variation in non-cassava crop suitability lend further credibility to the findings.

Keywords: armed conflict, coups, historical legacies, power sharing, slave trade

JEL Classification: D74, J15, N57

Suggested Citation

Ito, Gaku, On the Persistent Effects of the Slave Trade on Postcolonial Politics in Africa (November 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3714585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3714585

Gaku Ito (Contact Author)

Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences and NERPS, Hiroshima University ( email )

739-0046
Japan

HOME PAGE: http://gaku-ito.github.io

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