RHI Seminar: Mattia C. Bertazzini (London School of Economics)

9 May 2017: Colonial technology, human capital and African development. The case of Italian Libya (1920-2000).

Organised by Rural and Environmental History

Tue 9 May 2017 12:15 to 14:15

Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201
Room V72

Colonial technology, human capital and African development.

The case of Italian Libya (1920-2000).

The settlement of European farmers in Africa during the colonial period presents a puzzle difficult to compose: on the one hand, they imported skills and capital but, on the other, they took resources away from local cultivators. By looking at the short and long-run effect of Italian farming in Libya, I disentangle the relative importance of these two mechanisms. I construct a village-level, spatially explicit dataset of more than 200 villages, containing information on agricultural productivity and factors of production for both Libyans and Italians in 1939, as well as FAO-GAEZ data for 2000. First, OLS, IV and placebo tests show a positive causal effect of white agricultural settlement on total land productivity and nominal output, in both 1939 and 2000: locations that experienced more intense Italian cultivation during the colonial period exhibit persisting higher yields and crop values. Second, Italian farming significantly reduced Libyan productivity in surrounding villages in 1939. Regarding the mechanisms, systematic employment of irrigation largely accounts for the positive effects in the short-run, whereas labor drainage explains the negative spatial spillovers. Preliminary results also suggest that skills transfers between Italian and Libyan cultivators made the positive effect persist, after the complete expulsion of the settlers in 1970.

More information about Mattia Bertazzini can be found here.