The Monopoly over Violence in a Late Modernizer: Evidence from Imperial China

  • 5 Mar 2019

    17:00-18:30, Large Lecture Room, Nuffield College

  • Seminar in Economic and Social History   Add to Calendar
Speaker: Mark Dincecco


This event is part of our Economics and Social History series.

This study analyzes how the state may establish or lose a monopoly over violence in the context of late modernizers, taking imperial China as a laboratory. We construct new micro-level data that span several hundred years. We show evidence that, traditionally, there was greater state development – at the expense of private security provision via the clan – in response to mass rebellion, because the cost of public security was relatively low. After 1850, however, there was a dramatic increase in this cost due to China’s military loss to the West. In turn, we find evidence for greater private security provision – now at the expense of public provision – in response to internal conflict. This change reduced the imperial state’s monopoly over violence and eventually promoted state failure. Our study provides a new perspective on the long-run political dynamics of the Great Divergence.

The Economic and Social History series for Hilary Term 2018 is convened by Stephen Broadberry and Jakob Schneebacher.

For more information on this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact