I am indebted to Antonio Ciccone, two anonymous referees and Torsten Persson whose comments and suggestions substantially improved the exposition of the article. The idea of examining the second question (the impact of sweet potatoes) originates from a conversation with Nathan Nunn. Philippe Aghion, Ying Bai, Davide Cantoni, Shuji Cao, James Fenske, Masayuki Kudamatsu, Dwight Perkins, Nancy Qian, James Robinson, David Strömberg and the participants at the Asian Economic History Conference, HiCN Workshop, EEA, LSE Economics History Workshop, STICERD Work in Progress, IIES and SITE Stockholm provided helpful comments. I thank Wenxin Du for jointly collecting the grain prices data with me and Carol Shiue for sharing her granary storage data. Editorial assistance was provided by Christina Lönnblad and financial support was provided by Handelsbanken's Research Foundations. Any remaining mistakes are my own.
Weather Shocks, Sweet Potatoes and Peasant Revolts in Historical China
Article first published online: 1 JUL 2013
© 2013 The Author(s). The Economic Journal © 2013 Royal Economic Society
The Economic Journal
Volume 124, Issue 575, pages 92–118, March 2014
How to Cite
Jia, R. (2014), Weather Shocks, Sweet Potatoes and Peasant Revolts in Historical China. The Economic Journal, 124: 92–118. doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12037
- Issue published online: 17 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 1 JUL 2013
- Accepted manuscript online: 19 MAR 2013 09:30AM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 19 DEC 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 9 JUN 2011
- Handelsbanken's Research Foundations
I use data covering 267 prefectures over four centuries to investigate two questions about historical China. To what extent did weather shocks cause civil conflict? And to what extent did the historical introduction of (drought resistant) sweet potatoes mitigate these effects? I find that before the introduction of sweet potatoes, exceptional droughts increased the probability of peasant revolts by around 0.7 percentage points, which translates into a revolt probability in drought years that is more than twice the average revolt probability. After the introduction of sweet potatoes, exceptional droughts only increased the probability of peasant revolts by around 0.2 percentage points.