Scott F Abramson

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Rochester.  I received my PhD from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in 2015 and was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute for AY 2014-2015.  You can contact me at


The Historical Origins of Territorial Claims  (2015) w/ David Carter 

          Revise and Resubmit at The American Political Science Review

The Economic Origins of the Territorial State  (2015) 
Revise and Resubmit at International Organization

Time is Power: The Non-Institutional Sources of Stability in Autocracies  (2015) w/ Carlos Velasco-Rivera
         Revise and Resubmit at The Journal of Politics

Working Papers 

The Roots of the Industrial Revolution Institutions or (Socially Embodied) Know-How? (2015) w/ Carles Boix

An Institutional Common Score of National Constitutions (2015) w/ Michael Barber 

The Resource Curse in the Long-Run: Evidence From European Coal Mining Regions in the 19th Century (2015) w/ Elena Esposito  

Conflict, Cooperation, and Exit: a Mechanism Design Approach to the Origins of the State (2015) w/ Jee Seon Jeon

Parliaments, War, & Commerce (2015) w/ Carles Boix

Book Project:                Production, Predation, and the Origins of the Territorial State

​What explains variation in the number and geographic size of states? Contrary to standard accounts, I find that before the French Revolution changes in patterns of economic development not the scale, frequency, or costs of war, explain variation in the number and size of units within the European system.

I advance this claim in three steps. First, I show that assertions of a military revolution in the costs and scale of warfare are either exaggerated or simply do not appear when confronted with systematic data analysis. Then, using new data describing the entire universe of European states I demonstrate that the predictions made by war-making theories of state formation regarding changes in the size and number of independent states simply do not materialize in the manner predicted.

Second I build on models of elections and industrial organization to create a theoretical framework that can explain observed patterns of state formation. This formal narrative shows that even in a world of anarchic competition between states, patterns of economic geography can explain variation in the number and size of states. Unlike the sometimes abstruse logic of macro-sociological theory, I provide a micro-founded logic that yields a set of implications which can be readily brought to data.

The preponderance of this book is devoted to the third task, testing these predictions. This analysis represents the first set of statistical tests of theories of state formation that rely on systematically collected, large-N, data. In combination I provide evidence that changes in trade, commerce, and urban revival best explain patterns of state formation before 1790. The French Revolution and subsequent

Napoleonic wars, however, forced upon states political changes that empowered com- mercial elites, did away with internal barriers to trade, and limited restrictive guild- based production. In doing so, these changes, produced economies of geographic scale leading to “Smithian” growth, thereby creating both economic and militarily incentives to establish and maintain large states. 


Ernst Haas Best Dissertation Award from the APSA European Politics and Society Section - 2015

The Society for Political Methodology Best Poster Award - 2013