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Taxes, lawyers, and the decline of witch trials in France

Johnson, Noel D and Koyama, Mark (2011): Taxes, lawyers, and the decline of witch trials in France.

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Abstract

This paper explores the rise of the fiscal state in the early modern period and its impact on legal capacity. To measure legal capacity, we establish that witchcraft trials were more likely to take place where the central state had weak legal insti- tutions. Combining data on the geographic distribution of witchcraft trials with unique panel data on tax receipts across 21 French regions, we find that the rise of the tax state can account for much of the decline in witch trials during this period. Further historical evidence supports our hypothesis that higher taxes led to better legal institutions.

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