Proposal preview

Re-evaluating the Pre-industrial European Warfare State

Philip T. Hoffman’s new book, Why Did Europe Conquer the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015) has challenged pre-existing notions as to why Europe became so dominant economically and military in the last 500 years or so. He posits that the answer can be found in a model of tournaments, i.e. that the constant military and economic competition for domination in Europe, in conjunction with other cultural and historical developments, explain Europe’s global success. The key to Hoffman’s explanation are near constant warfare and the fact that sovereigns consistently spent large portions of their budgets on war. His model links the high probability that European rulers would go to war to the high value of the victor’s prize, similarity of resources, military technology, and ability to mobilize those resources (absence of a hegemon is crucial). Therefore, Hoffman’s four conditions for Europeans’ path toward global dominance include frequent war, high (and consistent) military spending, adoption and advancement of gunpowder technology, and relative lack of obstacles to military innovations. According to him, Europeans enjoyed low fixed costs for going to war, distances were small, variable costs for mobilization were low, and there was a merchant base that helped with the financing of conflicts.
In this session we wish to examine how the Hoffman model holds up in broader comparisons of, first, European states and, second, other polities around the world in the medieval and early modern period. We are also interested in how central and local government’s financial and administrative systems managed to fund and organize effective warfare and how a fiscally fragmented public sector developed towards a more centralized one during this transformation period. We aim to bring together leading scholars from around the globe focusing on military spending and fiscal changes in this period. Moreover, our goal is to initiate a broader discussion of Hoffman’s theoretical and empirical findings and their relation to earlier interpretations and historical models.

Organizer(s)

  • Jari A Eloranta Appalachian State University elorantaj@appstate.edu USA
  • Philip T Hoffman Caltech pth@hss.caltech.edu USA
  • Dan Bogart UC-Irvine dbogart@uci.edu USA
  • Marjolein t'Hart University of Amsterdam m.c.t.hart@vu.nl Netherlands
  • Matti Hannikainen University of Tampere Matti.Hannikainen@uta.fi) Finland
  • Cristina Moreira University of Minho mcristina@eeg.uminho.pt Portugal
  • Rodrigo da Costa Dominguez University of Minho and University of Porto rcdominguez@uol.com.br Portugal

Session members

  • Petri Karonen, University of Jyvaskyla
  • Miikka Voutilainen, University of Jyvaskyla
  • R. Bin Wong, UCLA
  • Metin Cosgel, University of Connecticut
  • Bogdan Popescu, University of Chicago
  • Sadullah Yıldırım, University of Connecticut
  • William Guanglin Liu, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,
  • Pepijn Brandon, University of Amsterdam
  • Andreas Ferrara, University of Warwick
  • Sascha Becker, University of Warwick
  • Eric Melander, University of Warwick
  • Lugi Pascal, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • Ilkka Nummela, University of Jyvaskyla

Discussant(s)

  • Dan Bogart UC-Irvine dbogart@uci.edu
  • Marjolein t'Hart University of Amsterdam m.c.t.hart@vu.nl
  • Vincent Geloso Texas Tech University vincentgeloso@hotmail.com
  • Philip T. Hoffman Caltech pthits@caltech.edu

Papers

Panel abstract

Philip T. Hoffman’s book on why Europeans conquered the world has challenged pre-existing notions as to why Europe became so dominant economically and military in the last 500 years or so. He posits that the the constant military and economic competition for domination in Europe, in conjunction with other cultural and historical developments, explain Europe’s global success. Therefore, Hoffman’s four conditions for Europeans’ path toward global dominance include frequent war, high (and consistent) military spending, adoption and advancement of gunpowder technology, and relative lack of obstacles to military innovations. According to him, Europeans enjoyed low fixed costs for going to war, distances were small, variable costs for mobilization were low, and there was a merchant base that helped with the financing of conflicts. Here we will take different approaches to analyze both European and other cases to see how they mobilized and maintained their warfare states.

1st half

Warfare and Early Industrialization

Philip T. Hoffman

Warfare, it is argued, contributed to early industrialization in several ways: by securing access to raw materials, by generating profits from colonialism, by raising wages in cities that dominated international trade, or by spurring technical change. Only the last avenue is plausible and then only in a portion of the economy—metal working. But war had another effect as well: it helped raise state capacity to tax, and that did further early industrialization.

Warfare, it is argued, contributed to early industrialization in several ways: by securing access to raw materials, by generating profits from colonialism, by raising wages in cities that dominated international trade, or by spurring technical change. Only the last avenue is plausible and then only in a portion of the economy—metal working. But war had another effect as well: it helped raise state capacity to tax, and that did further early industrialization.

Religion and State Capacity: Ottoman Europe in 1530

Metin Cosgel, Bogdan Popescu, Sadullah Yıldırım

This paper will study the relationship between religion and state capacity in the European districts of the Ottoman Empire in the year 1530. Starting from a small tribe settled in northwestern Anatolia at the end of the thirteenth century, the Ottomans soon expanded their rule in the Balkans and eventually controlled territories in eastern and central Europe, including lands in today’s Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Crimea, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Whereas the population in these lands consisted of non-Muslims prior to Ottoman conquest, the fraction of Muslims rose significantly in some districts by the sixteenth century. Focusing on the year 1530, we examine how the variation in the Muslim share of population across districts affected the fiscal ability of the Ottomans to tax the population and their administrative ability to provide public goods and services.

This paper will study the relationship between religion and state capacity in the European districts of the Ottoman Empire in the year 1530. Starting from a small tribe settled in northwestern Anatolia at the end of the thirteenth century, the Ottomans soon expanded their rule in the Balkans and eventually controlled territories in eastern and central Europe, including lands in today’s Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Crimea, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Whereas the population in these lands consisted of non-Muslims prior to Ottoman conquest, the fraction of Muslims rose significantly in some districts by the sixteenth century. Focusing on the year 1530, we examine how the variation in the Muslim share of population across districts affected the fiscal ability of the Ottomans to tax the population and their administrative ability to provide public goods and services.

An Alternative Path: how the Mongol conquest reshaped the military-fiscal structure in imperial China, ca. 1300

William Guanglin Liu

Based on an investigation of the major changes caused by the Mongol conquest to both the mode of the military mobilization and the financial structure in imperial China in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century, this paper argues that the Mongol conquest not only destroyed the fiscal state of the Song dynasty China, but produced an alternative path: a demonetized military-fiscal structure, namely Beijing Imperialism, that was initialized characterized by hereditary household services and the ban against free migration to support a self-sufficient mode of military mobilization. All these became possible largely because the Beijing-centered political powers could effectively exploit cavalry troops to defeat their enemies without causing a sumptuous expenditure. Despite the reemergence of the market economy in sixteenth-century China, the central government collected a relatively small share of tax revenues from the market and the money-measured fiscal strength of the Chinese state remained weak.

Based on an investigation of the major changes caused by the Mongol conquest to both the mode of the military mobilization and the financial structure in imperial China in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century, this paper argues that the Mongol conquest not only destroyed the fiscal state of the Song dynasty China, but produced an alternative path: a demonetized military-fiscal structure, namely Beijing Imperialism, that was initialized characterized by hereditary household services and the ban against free migration to support a self-sufficient mode of military mobilization. All these became possible largely because the Beijing-centered political powers could effectively exploit cavalry troops to defeat their enemies without causing a sumptuous expenditure. Despite the reemergence of the market economy in sixteenth-century China, the central government collected a relatively small share of tax revenues from the market and the money-measured fiscal strength of the Chinese state remained weak.

Military Imperatives of European State Making: A Model for State Making and Public Finance More Generally?

R. Bin Wong

This paper suggests that in addition to the reasons that Hoffman identifies for why Europe conquered the world there are some additional factors that distinguish European cases from others to explain the early modern economic and geopolitical features of Europe that distinguish it from those parts of Eurasia with territorial empires. China is a particular case of early modern territorial empire that suggests some of the European particularities from much of the rest of Eurasia, as well as distinctiveness of China among territorial empires heading into the twentieth century. Considering some features of public finance in the second half of the twentieth century as well as the particularities of China’s early twenty-first century’s economic and political expansion into other world regions half a millennium after Europeans’ initial moves across several oceans, leads to a conclusion about the temporal and spatial specificities of European models of state making and public finance.

This paper suggests that in addition to the reasons that Hoffman identifies for why Europe conquered the world there are some additional factors that distinguish European cases from others to explain the early modern economic and geopolitical features of Europe that distinguish it from those parts of Eurasia with territorial empires. China is a particular case of early modern territorial empire that suggests some of the European particularities from much of the rest of Eurasia, as well as distinctiveness of China among territorial empires heading into the twentieth century. Considering some features of public finance in the second half of the twentieth century as well as the particularities of China’s early twenty-first century’s economic and political expansion into other world regions half a millennium after Europeans’ initial moves across several oceans, leads to a conclusion about the temporal and spatial specificities of European models of state making and public finance.

2nd half

From Warfare to Welfare States: Fiscal Capacity and State Formation in Finland and Sweden in the Long Run

Jari Eloranta, Petri Karonen, Matti Hannikainen, Miikka Voutilainen

In Sweden, the construction of an early modern state and the development of the military went in parallel during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sweden had scarce financial and human resources, so it was based on both an offensive strategy and that "the war had to pay for itself." The strategy worked well until the end of the 17th century. Then the share of the military expenses to the state's total expenditures increased to a significant extent, and the limits of resources finally came to an end. From the 1720s onwards, the military sector's share of the expenditures turned to a slow decline. The Swedish state was often forced to rely on inflationary seignorage income to finance wars. Finland had to bear some of the burden of the warfare, and we can also see the early transition out of the warfare state in Finland and Sweden in the 19th century.

In Sweden, the construction of an early modern state and the development of the military went in parallel during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sweden had scarce financial and human resources, so it was based on both an offensive strategy and that "the war had to pay for itself." The strategy worked well until the end of the 17th century. Then the share of the military expenses to the state's total expenditures increased to a significant extent, and the limits of resources finally came to an end. From the 1720s onwards, the military sector's share of the expenditures turned to a slow decline. The Swedish state was often forced to rely on inflationary seignorage income to finance wars. Finland had to bear some of the burden of the warfare, and we can also see the early transition out of the warfare state in Finland and Sweden in the 19th century.

Fifteen Leagues and a Century Short: How Geographic Barriers Kept the Low Countries from Being the First to Industrialize

John Lovett

Economic historians have long pondered why the Dutch Republic failed to industrialize and why what is now Belgium came late to industrialization. Like England, the Low Countries had a highly commercial economy, good institutions, and high wages. What they arguably lacked, was cheap energy from coal. This paper argues that it was political/military borders, not distance to coal, which deprived the Low Countries of cheap energy for so long. The history of borders in the Low Countries between 1348 and 1870 is examined with the main focus on the Eighty Years War(s). In nearly every instance, a political/military barrier to trade separates each coal field from a port and world markets. The borders, however, are tantalizingly close to where they needed to be to link coalfields with ports, sometimes too far from the coast and sometimes not far enough. The Netherlands repeatedly fell just short when it came to borders.

Economic historians have long pondered why the Dutch Republic failed to industrialize and why what is now Belgium came late to industrialization. Like England, the Low Countries had a highly commercial economy, good institutions, and high wages. What they arguably lacked, was cheap energy from coal. This paper argues that it was political/military borders, not distance to coal, which deprived the Low Countries of cheap energy for so long. The history of borders in the Low Countries between 1348 and 1870 is examined with the main focus on the Eighty Years War(s). In nearly every instance, a political/military barrier to trade separates each coal field from a port and world markets. The borders, however, are tantalizingly close to where they needed to be to link coalfields with ports, sometimes too far from the coast and sometimes not far enough. The Netherlands repeatedly fell just short when it came to borders.

Wage Labor, Forced Labor, and the Transition from Sail to Steam: Naval shipyards as laboratories for capitalist industrialization

Pepijn Brandon

Naval shipyards were emblematic facilities for large-scale manufacturing in the pre-industrial period as well as during and after the Industrial Revolution. Employing even thousands of laborers in cooperative work-processes, places as diverse as the Venetian Arsenale and the Ottoman Imperial Shipyard Tersane-i Amire have each been described as frontrunners of industrial work-practices. The development of naval shipbuilding was connected to capitalist development at several levels. With the nineteenth-century transition from the age of sail to the age of steam, such transfers became more difficult, and replicating the models of naval production implemented by more advanced capitalist states required comprehensive programs of adaptation of nations’ industrial and technological infrastructure. This paper will examine how changes in the internal organization of shipyards in the transition from the age of sail to the age of steam were related to the growing gap between advanced capitalist nations and the rest of the world.

Naval shipyards were emblematic facilities for large-scale manufacturing in the pre-industrial period as well as during and after the Industrial Revolution. Employing even thousands of laborers in cooperative work-processes, places as diverse as the Venetian Arsenale and the Ottoman Imperial Shipyard Tersane-i Amire have each been described as frontrunners of industrial work-practices. The development of naval shipbuilding was connected to capitalist development at several levels. With the nineteenth-century transition from the age of sail to the age of steam, such transfers became more difficult, and replicating the models of naval production implemented by more advanced capitalist states required comprehensive programs of adaptation of nations’ industrial and technological infrastructure. This paper will examine how changes in the internal organization of shipyards in the transition from the age of sail to the age of steam were related to the growing gap between advanced capitalist nations and the rest of the world.

Municipal finances in times of global wars: Lisbon’s tonnage taxation on vessels during the Napoleonic period, c.1800-1814

Rodrigo da Costa Dominguez, Maria Cristina Moreira

In this study, it is proposed to address the issues related to Lisbon’s municipal tonnage tax, known as the Marco dos Navios, charged on the vessels that entered the main Portuguese port, its utilization and performance through a qualitative analysis of the sums collected at the zenith of the Napoleonic conflicts. In this sense, Lisbon’s case is emblematic, as the great transshipment port of the Empire, as well as a mandatory point of transatlantic routes and connections between the Mediterranean and the North/Baltic Seas. Within the present context of Maritime History, the goals are to debate its contribution to the Royal Treasury, the ships’ flow behavior in a period which the administrative axis of the Portuguese empire moved to Rio de Janeiro, as well as to think over this tax within the framework of the evaluation of the productivity levels, associated with the evolution of maritime transport and its costs.

In this study, it is proposed to address the issues related to Lisbon’s municipal tonnage tax, known as the Marco dos Navios, charged on the vessels that entered the main Portuguese port, its utilization and performance through a qualitative analysis of the sums collected at the zenith of the Napoleonic conflicts. In this sense, Lisbon’s case is emblematic, as the great transshipment port of the Empire, as well as a mandatory point of transatlantic routes and connections between the Mediterranean and the North/Baltic Seas. Within the present context of Maritime History, the goals are to debate its contribution to the Royal Treasury, the ships’ flow behavior in a period which the administrative axis of the Portuguese empire moved to Rio de Janeiro, as well as to think over this tax within the framework of the evaluation of the productivity levels, associated with the evolution of maritime transport and its costs.

Warfare, State Capacity, and the Rise of Democratic Institutions

Sascha Becker, Andreas Ferrara, Eric Melander, Luigi Pascali

This paper studies the effect of warfare on the evolution of state capacity and representative institutions in European history. To give our estimates a causal interpretation, we exploit changes in inter-family links in a network of nobles that exogenously shock the probability that a city is involved in a conflict. Using data on 2,340 German cities between 1100 and 1750, we find that an increase in conflict exposure increases the size of the city council, the probability that the council is elected by the citizens and the separation of powers into distinct institutional branches. It also implies a larger number of taxes and more sophisticated methods of taxation, thus supporting the hypothesis that, during wars, rulers trade-off tax revenues for political power according to the idea `no taxation without representation.

This paper studies the effect of warfare on the evolution of state capacity and representative institutions in European history. To give our estimates a causal interpretation, we exploit changes in inter-family links in a network of nobles that exogenously shock the probability that a city is involved in a conflict. Using data on 2,340 German cities between 1100 and 1750, we find that an increase in conflict exposure increases the size of the city council, the probability that the council is elected by the citizens and the separation of powers into distinct institutional branches. It also implies a larger number of taxes and more sophisticated methods of taxation, thus supporting the hypothesis that, during wars, rulers trade-off tax revenues for political power according to the idea `no taxation without representation.