The Mongol Conquest, State Capacity, and Historical Stagnation of Imperial China

26 Oct 2023 04.30 PM - 06.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Florence Mok

The Mongol conquest was one of the bloodiest wars in human history. The Mongol conquest of China (1205-1279 AD) had persistent negative effects on long-term development, even centuries after the war. With the use of newly assembled data on war, population, and 16th-century county-level agriculture, I show that regions severely impacted by the conquest are associated with lower granary storage, indicating lower levels of productivity. An additional year of war is associated with a 1.58 - 2.8% decrease in granary levels. The Mongols intentionally targeted more developed areas in the conquest. After correcting for potential biases, instrumental variable analyses report that granary storage declined drastically, ranging from 18.7% to 56.7% with an additional year of war. The mechanism for stagnation is regional differences in state capacity, as evidenced by decreased land tax collection in counties where the conquest lasted longer. The Malthusian mechanism, in contrast to state capacity, does not explain the long-term economic outcomes of China after the Mongol conquest.

Dr. Kaman Ho is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the History Department at Nanyang Technological University. She completed her Ph.D. in Economics at George Mason University. Her research focuses on topics in applied microeconomics, primarily economics history, development economics, and political economy.