In the Name of the Father: Inheritance Systems and the Dynamics of State Capacity

Jean Chartier, Marriage of Henry V of England to Catherine of Valois


In Macroeconomic Dynamics.
This paper examines how the degree of gender-egalitarianism embedded in inheritance rules impacts state capacity at its early stages during medieval times. We present a theoretical model in which building state capacity enables nobles to raise taxes and overcome rivals. The model addresses the use of inheritance to consolidate landholding dynasties, also accommodating inter-state marriages between landed heirs. On the one hand, dynastic continuity —of utmost importance to European medieval lords— directly encourages statebuilding. Male-biased inheritance rules historically maximise the likelihood of dynastic continuity. We weigh this effect against the indirect impact of the more frequent land merging marriages under gender-egalitarian rules. Contrary to the literature, our results suggest that gender-egalitarian norms —offering a low probability of dynastic continuity— promote state capacity in the short run more than gender-biased norms. In the long run results are reversed, providing a rationale for the pervasive European tradition of preference for men as heirs.

In Macroeconomic Dynamics, Volume 23 - Issue 6
Èric Roca Fernández
Èric Roca Fernández
Post-Doctoral Researcher

My research interests include comparative development, economic history and gender economics.