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Kings and Vikings: on the dynamics of competitive agglomeration

  • Economics
  • Political Science


Econ Gov (2010) 11:207–227 DOI 10.1007/s10101-009-0071-1 ORIGINAL PAPER Kings and Vikings: on the dynamics of competitive agglomeration Matthew J. Baker · Erwin H. Bulte Received: 20 January 2009 / Accepted: 13 November 2009 / Published online: 17 December 2009 © The Author(s) 2009. This article is published with open access at Abstract This paper proposes a theory of competitive agglomeration—a new enquiry into the origins of hierarchical structures and governments. As a motivat- ing example we analyze the Viking age—the roughly 300 year period beginning in 800 AD—from the perspective of the economics of conflict. The Viking age is inter- esting because throughout the time period, the scale of conflict increased—small scale raiding behaviour eventually evolved into large scale clashes between armies. With this observation in mind, we present a theoretical model describing the incen- tives both the defending population and the invading population had to agglomerate into larger groups to better defend against attacks, and engage in attacks, respectively. We tentatively postulate that competitive agglomeration during the Viking era was a key impetus to state formation in Europe. Keywords Conflict · European history · State formation JEL Classification D74 · H56 · N40 · O12 “For what are thieves’ purchases but little kingdoms, for in theft the hands of the underlings are directed by the commander, the confederacy of them is sworn together, and the pillage is shared by law amongst them? And if those ragamuf- fins grow up to be able to keep enough forts, build habitations, possess cities, and M. J. Baker Department of Economics, Hunter College, City University of New York, 695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA e-mail: [email protected] E. H. Bulte (B) Development Economics Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 8130, 6700 EW Wageningen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] 123 208 M. J. Baker, E. H. Bulte conquer adjoining nations, then

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