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QoG lunch seminar with Guillem Amatller

Society and economy

"State sponsored technology, population density and the role of Bourgeoisie"

1 Dec 2021
12:00 - 13:00
Stora Skansen (room B336), Sprängkullsgatan 19

Guillem Amatller, predoctoral research fellow at IBEI and UPF, Barcelona
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The QoG institute regularly organizes seminars related to research on Quality of Government, broadly defined as trustworthy, reliable, impartial, uncorrupted and competent government institutions.

All seminars are held in English unless stated otherwise.
The Quality of Government institute



What are the determinants of the expansion of the telegraph in the 19th century? Telecommunications contributed to the immediate communication between state officials, without them having to physically move to communicate. In addition, the telegraph and telecommunications were an important source of public revenue. Seen from this perspective in which the telegraph is part of the infrastructural power of the State, how can its uneven development be explained? Why policymakers decided to place telegraph stations in some places and not in others? Using novel data on the extension of the telegraph in Sweden, I show how population density was the most determining factor. The main theoretical anchor behind this finding is that population density captured the preferences of an economic elite with increasing political power: the bourgeoisie, which was represented in the Swedish parliament organized in Estates. I use different methods to test the relationship between population density and telegraph adoption, such as OLS, Logistic Regression and Instrumental variable analysis. In the final section I incorporate qualitative evidence from parliamentary debates, in which I show how the bourgeoisie was interested in expanding the telegraph in the most commercial areas, which happened to be the most densely populated as well.