On the Persistent Effects of the Slave Trade on Postcolonial Politics in Africa
54 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021 Last revised: 10 Mar 2021
Date Written: November 1, 2020
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: Suggested Citation