Essays on historical development in Africa

  • Haicheng Jiang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis adds to the recent historical development literature within development economics and investigates the long-term impacts of historical events on contemporary development performance, to aid our understanding of underdevelopment in modern Africa. In Chapter 2, I first introduce the theory of ethnicity and the related concepts such as ethnic group and ethnic diversity. I then uncover the influence of ethnic power at the local level in Africa by using multiple waves of the Afrobarometer surveys and reviewing the recent literature that studies the impacts of precolonial ethnic characteristics on contemporary development performance. In the following three chapters (i.e. Chapter 3, 4 and 5), I focus on the impacts of three important historical events in Africa, such as human migration, civil conflict and the slave trade. Specifically, I try to answer the following three questions by taking a historical perspective at the ethnicity level in Africa: (1) the impact of genetic diversity on interpersonal trust, (2) the impact of civil conflict on ethnic identity, and (3) the impact of the slave trade on within-group economic inequality. Using a combination of multiple survey datasets, historical archives, and econometric analysis, this thesis finds that: (1) genetic diversity within ethnic groups has a negative impact on interpersonal trust over the long-term horizon, (2) individuals who are exposed to short-term civil conflict tend to feel a stronger sense of ethnic identity rather than national identity, and (3) ethnic groups with higher levels of the slave trade in the distant past are economically more unequal today. Overall, explaining the link between these historical events and current social, economic and political outcomes has important policy implications and valuable guidance to make the African society moving forward.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsChina Scholarship Council
SupervisorArcangelo Dimico (Supervisor), Matthias Blum (Supervisor) & Matthias Flueckiger (Supervisor)


  • Historical development
  • ethnicity
  • genetic diversity
  • trust
  • civil conflict
  • ethnic identity
  • slave trade
  • economic inequality
  • cultural economics

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