The importance of Greek migrants in world history

Here is a new paper by Andreas Link:

During the Renaissance numerous discoveries and inventions significantly bolstered European development. This paper examines the role played by Greek migrants in this process. While the vast majority of works by ancient Greek scholars such as Galen, Hippocrates, and Euclid were unknown in Western Europe during the middle ages, such knowledge had been preserved in the Byzantine Empire. The revival of ancient Greek knowledge within Western Europe coincided with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 and the subsequent surge in Greek migration to Western Europe. Using a newly constructed dataset on Greek migrants in Europe, I show that a Greek presence around the year 1500 is positively associated with city growth in the sixteenth century. This finding is corroborated by a difference-in-differences analysis as well as an instrumental variable approach that exploits distance to Constantinople as a source of exogenous variation in Greek presence in European cities. In terms of mechanisms, I find that a Greek presence is associated with larger numbers of published book editions in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine – fields in which ancient Greek and Byzantine scholars were especially advanced – as well as larger levels of upper-tail human capital. Finally, the results show that destination places for Greek migration became centers of innovation. Together, these results emphasize the importance of Greeks in the dissemination and application of scientific knowledge in early modern Europe and suggest that a Greek presence was one of the major growth drivers during the early modern period.

Via Kris Gulati.

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