Nuremberg Research Seminar in Economics on 04 December 2019
You are invited to join the weekly Nuremberg Research Seminar in Economics on 04 December 2019, from 13.15 to 14.45 pm. The seminar will be held in room Number LG 0.423. Christine Binzel (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg) will be talking about “Vernacularization, the Protestant Reformation, and Development”.
Please find below the abstract:
In Europe from the 13th century onwards, Latin, a language whose knowledge was restricted to a small section of elites in society, was gradually replaced by languages that were widely spoken and used for everyday interpersonal communication. This paper presents a conceptual framework on the economics of vernacularization, i.e. the increased use of the common tongues in writing, and derives several hypotheses on the role of the Protestant Reformation therein. To empirically test our hypotheses, we draw on city-level data on all books and pamphlets published in Europe between 1451 and 1600. Consistent with our conceptual framework, we find that the Protestant Reformation was associated with an increase in vernacular works in both Protestant and Catholic cities, such that by the end of the 16th century, the majority of works in Europe were printed in the vernaculars. We also provide evidence that the Protestant Reformation was associated with a reduction in the economic and political barriers to vernacularization. Finally, we examine the consequences of the vernacularization of printing. We find that (non-religious) books in the vernacular, rather than in Latin, are positively and significantly correlated with subsequent city growth. Moreover, we provide evidence that non-religious vernacular printing was associated with the creation of upper-tail human capital. Overall, our results suggest that one of the channels through which the Protestant Reformation altered Europe’s institutional architecture and fostered economic development was via spurring the usage of the common tongues.