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Feudalism, Collaboration and Path Dependence in England’s Political Development

  • Gabriel Leon

This article presents a formal model of path dependence inspired by England’s history. The introduction of feudalism after the Norman Conquest – the critical juncture – created a large elite that rebelled frequently. The king fought these revolts with the help of collaborators he recruited from the masses. In compensation, he made these collaborators members of the elite. This was a cost-effective form of compensation: rents were only partly rival, and so new elite members only partially diluted the rents received by the king. The dilution from adding new members decreased as the elite grew in size, generating positive feedback and path dependence. This mechanism can account for the extension of rights in England in the early stages of its journey towards democracy.

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Department of Political Economy, King’s College London (email: I am grateful to Toke Aidt, Ben Dilks and Anja Shortland for their very helpful comments. Online appendices are available at

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British Journal of Political Science
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