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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Economic theory often suggests that social institutions are strongly influenced by specific geographic features of regions. The history of gold mining in West Africa, however, suggests that the relationship between mineral resources and social organization is complex and fluid. First, over the centuries gold mining revenues may have encouraged state formation, but at the same time opportunities for conflict and corruption may have undermined state functioning. Second, while gold extraction and trade required social organization, the interpersonal relationships engendered by gold mining also led to new identities and social institutions. These dialectical considerations illustrate how simple theories of how geography affects society need to be tempered by more nuanced understanding of history.

Keywords: Africa, history, gold, state formation, growth, trade

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