Conin, Easterly, and Gong, "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?"
To the extent that history is discussed at all in economic development, it is usually either the divergence associated with the Industrial Revolution or the effects of colonial regimes. Is it possible that precolonial, preindustrial history also matters significantly for today's national economic development? The authors find that technology adoption circa 1500 A.D., prior to the era of colonization and extensive European contacts, predicts approximately 50 percent of cross-country differences in both current per capita income and technology in a large cross-section of countries. When exploring the causes of this extreme persistence in technology, they find evidence in favor of the importance of the effect of current adoption on subsequent adoption as the main driver. This leaves a limited role to country-specific factors such as institutions, geography, or genes to explain the persistence of technology.