April 22, 2016

Plague, Politics, and Pogroms

The Black Death, Rule of Law, and the Persecution of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire
  • Mark Koyama

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Theresa S. Finley

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Find the paper at SSRN

This paper explores the institutional determinants of persecution by studying the intensity of the Black Death pogroms in the Holy Roman Empire. Political fragmentation exacerbated rent-seeking in the Holy Roman Empire. We argue that this fragmentation led to Jewish communities facing more intense persecutions during the Black Death. We test this argument using data on the intensity of pogroms, historical trade routes, ecclesiastical and political boundaries. In line with our model, we find that communities close to Archbishoprics, Bishoprics, and Imperial Free cities experienced more intense and violent persecutions than did those governed by the emperor. We discuss the implications this has for the enforcement of the rule of law in weak states.