Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan Woodward

Committee Members

John Bowman

Peter Liberman

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics


Agricultural Recovery, Land Tenure, Political Settlement, Civil Wars, Africa


Civil wars have long been characterized in the comparative politics literature as having profoundly negative economic effects for both individual households and countries on a larger scale. However, variation in postwar economic outcomes indicates that conflict may indeed have some curative effects. I argue political settlements in the aftermath of civil wars can shape postwar economic outcomes by transforming institutions critical to agricultural productivity. The structure of the state postwar can shape land tenure security, local government participation, and the management of preexisting social divisions. I employ a case study method controlling for differences on the independent variable in order to better study agricultural productivity postwar. Using archival data, I examine the state of the agricultural sector in three sub-Saharan African country cases.

I contribute to the existing scholarship on civil wars, postwar economic recovery, and institutional development in several ways. I discuss how civil wars can precipitate institutional changes that have a measurable effect on postwar economies. I establish that postwar settlements are important not only in terms of forestalling a return to violence and providing security guarantees to warring parties, but these agreements can establish a foundation for economic growth (or economic stagnation). Finally, while I acknowledge the importance of having a good institutional foundation for economic growth, I emphasize the interaction between the local political context and institutional arrangements aimed at bringing about greater productivity.

My research has broader implications for our understanding of the effectiveness of aid disbursements and loan programs to the developing world. Foreign aid and loan programs often do not take into account local conditions that may assist or hamper economic growth. Promoting property rights, as multilateral development agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank are wont to do, may be wrongheaded in cases with lingering social divisions or a lack of participatory mechanisms. In fact, pushing formalized property rights in countries with considerable class or ethnic strife could lead to conflict recurrence. Additionally, and contrary to the insistence of international aid agencies, I find that countries can emerge from civil war with a strong foundation for economic growth, provided the postwar political settlement addresses some of the problems that precipitated conflict in the first place.