Essays on Religion and Institutions in European Economic History

Theresa S. Finley

Advisor: John V.C. Nye, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Noel D. Johnson, Mark Koyama

Vernon Smith Hall (formerly Metropolitan Building), #4027
April 21, 2017, 10:00 AM to 07:30 AM


My dissertation contains three essays on the role of religion and institutions in European economic history. In the first two essays I examine issues relating to the wealth of the Church in 18th century France and in the third essay I investigate the causes of Jewish persecutions during the Black Death in the Holy Roman Empire. 
The first essay investigates the role of transaction costs on effective monitoring within an organization by using a historical case study: the Cistercian Order in Ancien Regime France. The Cistercian Order used monitoring to prevent free riding behavior. Through a newly collected dataset on the location and wealth of Cistercian monasteries and transportation networks in 18th century France, I find that monasteries with higher monitoring costs (proxied by transportation costs) engaged in more market-orientated behavior, which constituted free riding according to the membership requirements of the monastic order. 
The second essay explores the long-run effects of the widescale land redistribution that occurred during the French Revolution through the confiscation and auctions of Church property on investment and productivity in the 19th century.  I find that French districts with a greater proportion of land redistributed during the French Revolution experienced higher levels of agricultural productivity and  investment during the 19th century. I argue that this result is consistent with the institutional changes that occurred through redistribution, most notably the improved efficiency of property rights. 
The third essay examines the institutional determinants of persecution by studying the intensity of the Black Death pogroms in the Holy Roman Empire. Using a new data set on the intensity of Jewish persecutions during the Black Death, I find that communities governed by Archbishoprics, Bishoprics, and Imperial Free Cities experienced more intense and violent persecutions than did those governed by the emperor or by secular princes.