Drs. Gingerich and Vogler Featured in Washington Post's Monkey Cage

June 10, 2021

Associate Professor Dan Gingerich and Postdoc Jan Vogler (who will take up an assistant professorship at the University of Konstanz in the fall) wrote a piece for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog based on their recently published article in World Politics entitled “Pandemics and Political Development: The Electoral Legacy of the Black Death in Germany.” The article, and their Monkey Cage summary, argue that the plague's devastation of German-speaking regions of Europe in the mid-fourteenth century shaped political development in those regions for centuries to come. The Black Death killed between 30 and 60 percent of Europe's population, according to the authors, with death rates varying considerably across localities. Gingerich and Vogler argue that in areas with high death rates, the subsequent labor shortage gave laborers leverage to demand better working conditions, creating a competitive labor market and breaking the hold of feudal elites. In time, these areas developed democratic institutions, and proved more resistant to anti-democratic politics than areas with lower death tolls, even five centuries later. The authors conclude that "enormous loss of life can accelerate economic and political progress." Not all pandemics have such drastic political and economic consequences, however. The COVID pandemic, for instance, has produced a much lower death rate among the working-age population. But like the Black Death, COVID's toll has been unevenly distributed, and certain geographical areas may see more structural repercussions than others.

Read the full Monkey Cage piece here.