Working Papers & In-progress

Abstract:  How does media influence the perpetration of violence during armed conflicts? This paper argues that media can shape civilians' willingness to help armed groups identify, arrest, and kill political opponents, affecting the latter's ability to carry out violence. I examine this possibility by looking at the impact of an infamous radio station that Nationalists used to deter civilians from collaborating with Republican authorities during the Spanish Civil War. Combining a measure of radio signal strength with data on irregular killings, I show that access to the Nationalist broadcasts sharply reduced wartime civilian victimization. Radio appears to have contributed to diminish civilian collaboration with Republicans, which in turn reduced both Republican violence and subsequent Nationalist retaliatory violence.

Abstract:  The rise of mass politics is conventionally attributed to state expansion and economic modernization. We propose a complementary institutional explanation, highlighting how the expansion of voting rights politicizes the general public and enhances their mobilization capacity. To test this argument, we use discontinuous variation in suffrage levels in the French local elections during the July Monarchy (1830-1848). Communes with a broader suffrage later showed a heightened interest in public affairs, capacity for collective mobilization, and opposition to autocracy. Even when introduced and practiced in an autocratic system, the right to vote seems to encourage the development of a pro-democratic public.

Abstract:  Recent work suggests that states expand mass education to promote mass obedience. But do they succeed? Earlier research suggests that education can also contribute to empower the masses and increase their readiness to rebel. I investigate this issue within the context of 19th-century France, where primary education was explicitly designed to promote social order. Using fine-grained archival data, I do not find evidence that broadened access to education increased obedience to state authorities, as measured by participation in the 1851 insurrection against Louis-Napoleon and by the voting behavior in the plebiscites that he organized to legitimize his regime. On the contrary, schools appear to have backfired: communes with greater access to education exhibited more insurgent activity and lower electoral support for Louis-Napoleon. I assess a number of potential mechanisms that could be driving this unintended effect.

Abstract:  Theories of education expansion are typically concerned with the intrinsic effects of state-sponsored schools, either on teaching skills or on instilling certain identities or values. However, states do not operate in a vacuum: other powerful actors can also recognize the potential of education for strengthening their influence and seek to participate in its provision.  In this paper, I argue that central authorities can invest in education not for its intrinsic effects, but to crowd out the education market and sideline competing private providers. I examine this possibility in the context of the Second French Empire (1852-1870), during which the rapid expansion of Catholic schools became a threat to the regime's elites. Leveraging quasi-exogenous variation on the ability of central authorities to enforce the creation of schools for girls, I show that secular schools were selectively established only in places that would have had a Catholic school otherwise. This finding reveals that strategic concerns can be an important motive behind central authorities' decision to provide schooling in contexts where private education providers are perceived as a threat.