School of Economics

2017 Discussion papers


School of Economics Discussion Paper 17/17


Was Domar Right? Serfdom and Factor
Endowments in Bohemia


Alexander Klein, University of Kent
Sheilagh Ogilvie, University of Cambridge


October 2017

Abstract:

Do factor endowments explain serfdom? Domar (1970) conjectured that high land-labor ratios caused serfdom by increasing incentives to coerce labor. But historical evidence is mixed and quantitative analyses are lacking. Using the Acemoglu-Wolitzky (2011) framework and controlling for political economy variables by studying a specific serf society, we analyze 11,349 Bohemian serf villages in 1757. The net effect of higher land-labor ratios was indeed to increase coercion. The effect greatly increased when animal labor was included, and diminished as land-labor ratios rose. Controlling for other variables, factor endowments significantly influenced serfdom. Institutions, we conclude, are shaped partly by economic fundamentals.

JEL Classification: J47; N33; O43; P48

Keywords: serfdom; land-labor ratio; institutions; labor coercion; rural-urban interaction


To download the file in pdf format click here.

School of Economics, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP

Undergraduate enquiries: +44 (0) 1227 827497, Postgraduate enquiries: +44 (0) 1227 827440 or email us

Last Updated: 06/11/2017