Ethnic Autonomy

03 December 2020, Version 3
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


This article explores the evolution of state infrastructural capacity by studying postal networks in early-modern Europe. Previous research indicates that the capacity to collect information and identify population underlies other abilities such as revenue extraction and public goods provision. I argue that early-modern European states invested in postal service not only to reduce information costs but also to facilitate policy. I document evidence by constructing a new data set on France and investigate how France addressed difficult-to-achieve policy goals. Exploiting the distribution of postal offices across cities, I compute costs of travel from Paris and varying levels of travel costs for cities without a post. Using draft-desertion rates in the First Republic and the persistence of non-French speakers in the Third Republic as my outcomes, I show that increases in travel cost lead to higher rates in both outcomes. Robustness checks are conducted on ethnicity and the preexisting infrastructure.


State capacity
Infrastructural capacity
Postal service

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