Delegation of Governmental Authority in Historical Perspective: Lordships, State Capacity and Development

“This paper investigates the long-term consequences of delegation of governmental authority through the study of a pivotal local political institution in historical Europe: the lordship. I collect data on seigneurial jurisdictions for ancien-regime Spain and document a negative relationship between having been a seigneurial town in the 18th century and current economic development. To shed light on the causal effect, I focus on the distribution of lordships in the former Kingdom of Granada after its conquest by the Catholic Monarchs, which can be considered as conditionally random.

The results confirm the negative effect of lordship found for the whole country: towns that shortly after the conquest were granted to nobles are relatively poorer today. In addition, I explore the mechanisms of persistence, with the results pointing to lower state capacity as a main explanatory factor. This finding is consistent with an interpretation of seigneurial jurisdictions as a privatization of the local government, which has historically hindered the application of central government policies and lowered the state’s infrastructural capacity in former manorial towns.”

Published in Political Economy: Structure & Scope of Government eJournal | Daniel Oto-Peralías | 2018,,