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Natural Experiments of History, edited by Jared Diamond and James Robinson

Natural Experiments of History, edited by Jared Diamond and James Robinson

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Natural Experiments of History

YOU CAN’T RUN A CONTROLLED SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT to discover the economic consequences of military conquest or slavery. But you can use comparative statistics from closely related societies to discover surprising reasons for far-reaching historical outcomes. This book contains seven chapters written by various authors describing recent research that examines these kinds of historical “experiments.”

Why is Haiti, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic, so much poorer? Diamond examines the geographic and ecological, linguistic and political differences between the two countries that resulted in the wide discrepancies we now see on the island.

Will a careful accounting of the regional distribution of the African slave trade reveal any long term effects of the slave trade on African economic development — differences that are evident even today.

Why did deforestation occur on some Pacific islands and not others? Why did places conquered by Napoleon become wealthier than those that were not? Also: the development of world banking systems, Indian colonial land tenure systems, and the New World: boom and bust in settler’s societies.

A superb collection of eminently teachable essays bound together by a common methodological framework that connects it directly to cutting-edge theoretical and empirical research across the disciplines of anthropology, archeology, history, political science, and sociology.

—John Coatsworth, Columbia University

Natural Experiments of History reaches across a wide variety of disciplines, in ways that should be accessible to just about every educated reader. It is tied together not by topic or region but by the idea that we can make useful and insightful comparisons in ways that are not casual or sloppy, but actually contribute to our understanding of human life.

—Jeff Frieden, Harvard University

Natural Experiments of History is a short book packed with huge ideas. Its collected essays advocate how controlled experiments can be applied to the messy realities of human history, politics, culture, economics and the environment. It demonstrates productive interdisciplinary collaborations but also reveals gulfs between different cultures of academia…All of the essays in Natural Experiments of History will trigger debate.

—Jon Christensen (Nature)

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