Early Statehood and Support for Democracy


This project seeks to investigate the relationship between early statehood development and support for democratic governance in contemporary Africa. Existing research highlights the importance of pre-modern political practices for persistent institutional features, including representative democracy. Typically, this argument posits an institutional mechanism – pre-industrial practices are hypothesized to either bolster or retard the transmission of democratic institutions. I propose to investigate an alternative and highly plausible channel, one that operates via the attitudes of ordinary Africans towards democratic governance. Relying on the insight that political systems socialize people to accept specific values, I hypothesize that one of the lasting effects of early centralized states in Africa is the prevalence of autocratic norms which undermine support for democracy today. I propose to test this hypothesis by levering a number of existing and one original dataset on the nature of precolonial political institutions in Africa.