about

Leander Heldring is a Postdoctoral Fellow at briq. He obtained his PhD at the University of Oxford. Leander is interested in economic development, economic history and political economy, with a focus on the role of politics and government in the development process. He has worked on the role of the government in the organization of the massacres in the Rwandan genocide, on colonialism, and has studied large scale land reform in England.

working papers

We examine the long-run economic impact of the Dissolution of the English monasteries in 1535, which is plausibly linked to the commercialization of agriculture and the location of the Industrial Revolution. Using monastic income at the parish level as our explanatory variable, we show that parishes which the Dissolution impacted more had more textile mills and employed a greater share of population outside agriculture, had more gentry and agricultural patent holders, and were more likely to be enclosed. Our results extend Tawney’s famous "rise of the gentry" thesis by linking social change to the Industrial Revolution.

This paper shows that contemporary patterns of violence can be traced back to the establishment of
the precolonial state. Rwandan villages that were brought under centralized rule one century earlier
experience a doubling of violence during the state-organized 1994 genocide. Instrumental variable estimates
exploiting differences in proximity to Nyanza – an early capital – suggest these effects are causal.
In other periods, when the state pursued peace and rebuilding, with longer state presence, violence is
lower. Using data from several sources, including a lab-in-the-field experiment, I show that exposure
to state institutions impacted civil society, and in particular culturally transmitted norms of obedience
to political authority. In a lab setting today, individuals close to an abandoned border of the historical
state are more likely to follow an unenforced rule than individuals just across the border. The state’s impact
on rule following led to more violence when the Rwandan government mobilized for mass killing
and to less violence when the government pursued peace and rebuilding. These results suggest that the
interaction of government policy with deep-rooted aspects of civil society has the potential to reconcile
long-run persistence with rapid economic change.