The Columbian Exchange and Conflict in Asia

We study the impact of a major permanent productivity shock — the introduction of New World crops after 1500 — on violent conflict in Asia. Using difference in difference and event study frameworks, we show that greater caloric suitability due to the Columbian Exchange significantly increased conflict in this context. We argue that a rapacity effect — a rise in the gains from appropriation, which increased the attractiveness of certain locations to belligerents — explains this result. We show that areas that experienced greater caloric suitability became significantly more populated and urbanized, and were significantly more likely to be violently conquered by Britain.