Historical Social Research

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Ummad Mazhar, The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: A Skeptical Note [Abstract]

This note casts skepticism over various hypothesis formulated by Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (2001) in reaching the conclusion that institutions cause economic development. I have identified four major issues in the study. It lacks adequate econometric specification and relies only on, what I termed, destiny variables. Secondly, the historical record does not support the author’s theory that mortality rate determine Europeans strategy for institutions they intended to develop in the host country; thirdly, given current living standards and disease ridden environment in low and middle income countries, the claim that disease environment of early 19th century was neutral to economic development seems farfetched; finally, assuming that initial institutions caused present institutions put in question the developmental efforts of past half century and thus is more than a sweeping generalization.