The Deep Roots of Rebellion: Evidence from the Irish Revolution

Gaia Narciso (Trinity College Dublin)
Battista Severgnini (Copenhagen Business School)

Abstract: What drives individuals to become insurgents? How do negative shocks explain social unrest in the long-run? This paper studies the triggers of rebellion at the individual level and explores the long-run inter-generational transmission of conflict, using a unique dataset constructed from administrative archives. Drawing on evidence from the Great Irish Famine (1845-1850) and its effect on the Irish Revolution against British rule (1913-1921), we find that rebels were more likely to be male, young, Catholic and literate. Moreover, we provide evidence showing that individuals whose families had been most affected by the Irish famine were more likely to participate in the rebellion. These findings are also confirmed when controlling for the level of economic development and other potential concurring factors, such as past revolutions and soil quality. Robustness checks based on the role of family names for studying socio-cultural persistence across generations support the above findings. The instrumental variable analysis, based on the extraordinary meteorological conditions that determined the spread of the potato blight that caused the famine, provides further evidence in support of the inter-generational legacy of rebellion.

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