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Revolt on the Nile: Economic Shocks, Religion and Institutional Change

Revolt on the Nile: Economic Shocks, Religion and Institutional Change

By Eric Chaney

Published Online (2010)

Abstract: This paper uses over 700 years of Nile flood data to investigate the effect of economic shocks on political outcomes in Islamic Egypt. Results show that while deviant Nile floods increased political instability, these shocks decreased the likelihood of a change in the highest ranking religious post. Additional empirical evidence and the historical record suggest this latter result is indicative of an increase in the political power of the religious elites. This increase appears to have stemmed, in turn, from an increase in potential rioters during economic downturns combined with the control of religious elites over popular coordination networks. The results are consistent with theories that stress the importance of this control in determining the institutional evolution of Islamic Egypt.

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