Abstract: I examine empirically the role of historical political centralization on the likelihood of contemporary civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. I combine a wide variety of historical sources to construct an original measure of long-run exposure to statehood at the sub-national level. I then exploit variation in this new measure along with geo-referenced conflict data to document a robust negative relationship between long-run exposure to statehood and contemporary conflict. From a variety of identification strategies, I provide evidence suggesting that the relationship is causal. I argue that regions with long histories of statehood are better equipped with mechanisms to establish and preserve order. I provide two pieces of evidence consistent with this hypothesis. First, regions with relatively long historical exposure to statehood are less prone to experience conflict when hit by a negative economic shock. Second, exploiting contemporary individual-level survey data, I show that within-country long historical statehood experience is linked to people’s positive attitudes toward state institutions and traditional leaders.
JEL: D74, N47, O10, O17, Z10