Luigi Pascali - The Dawn of Civilization: Metal Trade and the Urban Revolution
In the latter half of the fourth millennium BC, our ancestors experienced a remarkable transformation, progressing from simple agrarian villages to complex urban civilizations. In regions as far away as the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, and the Indus Valley, the first states appeared together with writing, cities with populations exceeding 10,000, and unprecedented socio-economic inequalities. The cause of this “Urban Revolution” remains unclear. We present new empirical evidence suggesting that the discovery of bronze and the ensuing long-distance trade played a crucial role. We find that trade corridors linking metal mines to fertile lands were more likely to experience the Urban Revolution. We propose that transit bottlenecks allowed the emergence of a new taxing elite. Using novel panel data and 2SLS techniques, we formally test this appropriability theory and provide several case studies in support.
Paper joint with M. Flueckiger, M. Larch and M. Ludwig
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