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Tropical development

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The scholarship on the history of economic development shows that countries in the intertropical zone have remained poorer than the rest of the world, suggesting that they struggle harder to achieve economic growth. What does tropical have to do with the struggle to grow? The talk will address that question. Defining tropicality as the composite of two conditions, persistent moisture-stress, and seasonality, and using examples from Africa and South Asia, I suggest that the struggle to grow is essentially a struggle to secure water and distribute water across seasons. Doing this with rainwater carries hazards, and groundwater is a finite resource, making the struggle harder as the process goes on.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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