DP16921 Eclipses and the Memory of Revolutions: Evidence from China

Author(s): Meng Miao, Jacopo Ponticelli
Publication Date: January 2022
Keyword(s): Confucianism, Persistence, Qing dynasty, Social Protests
JEL(s): D74, N3, O53
Programme Areas: Development Economics, Economic History, Political Economy
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16921

We study the historical roots of anti-government protests using the experience of China. We document that counties with higher incidence of peasant uprisings against local government officials during the Qing dynasty period (1644-1912) have a higher incidence of anti-government protests in present-day China. To generate plausibly exogenous variation in the incidence of past protests, we exploit differences in the visibility and magnitude of solar eclipses, considered a negative divine signal on the ruler's legitimacy in the Confucian tradition. Differences in historical memories of past protests affect communities' reaction to current grievances against local governments, such as increases in air pollution.