American Political Science Review

Research Article

The Autocratic Legacy of Early Statehood


a1 University of Copenhagen


This article documents that precolonial state development was an impediment to the development of democracy outside Europe, because indigenous state institutions constrained the European colonial endeavor and limited the diffusion of European institutions and ideas. Some countries were strong enough to resist colonization; others had enough state infrastructure that the colonizers would rule through existing institutions. Neither group therefore experienced institutional transplantation or European settlement. Less developed states, in contrast, were easier to colonize and were often colonized with institutional transplantation and an influx of settlers carrying ideals of parliamentarism. Using OLS and IV estimation, I present statistical evidence of an autocratic legacy of early statehood and document the proposed causal channel for a large sample of non-European countries. The conclusion is robust to different samples, different democracy indices, an array of exogenous controls, and several alternative theories of the causes and correlates of democracy.


c1 Jacob Gerner Hariri is a Ph.D. fellow, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, DK-1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark (


I thank Rune Bennike, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Peter S. Jensen, Mogens Justesen, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, David Laitin, David Dreyer Lassen, Jørgen Møller, Julie Hassing Nielsen, Asmus Leth Olsen, Adam Przeworski, Søren Roschmann, Shanker Satyanath, Svend-Erik Skaaning, David Stasavage, Christian Welzel, and Asger Wingender, as well as the co-editors and anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on a previous version. For financial support, I thank the Danish-American Fulbright Commission and Bikubenfonden.