Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 3 > Issue 1

The Developmental Legacies of Border Buffer Zones: The Case of Military Colonialism

Bogdan G. Popescu, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, John Cabot University, Italy,
Suggested Citation
Bogdan G. Popescu (2023), "The Developmental Legacies of Border Buffer Zones: The Case of Military Colonialism", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 3: No. 1, pp 31-63.

Publication Date: 17 May 2023
© 2023 B. G. Popescu
Comparative politics,  Political economy,  Political history,  Political participation
Buffer zonesbordersmilitary colonialismHabsburg Empirepersistent institutionslong-term development


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In this article:
Theoretical Framework 
Historical Background 
Estimation Framework 
Mechanisms of Transmission 
Legacies of Military Colonialism 


How do countries in conflict manage their borders and what are the long-term implications? Little literature focuses on the developmental legacies of military buffer zones. The Habsburg Empire maintained for centuries military colonies along its southern border, where local populations provided military service in exchange for land. Using a geographic regression discontinuity design, I show that municipalities in modern-day Croatia within the former military colony have had less investment in infrastructure, lower interpersonal trust, and weaker trust in formal institutions. I argue that the intensity of imperial investment, the transformation and/or reorganization of local societies, and labor market inflexibility are key determinants in shaping these developmental legacies both in the short and long-run.