The multi year project constructs an innovative "geospatial cross-walk" to provide, for the first time for historians, sociologists, economists, and political scientists, a consistent set of geographical units (Kreise) that track Central European history at the county level for over one hundred years of German and Central European history (1895-2012) in order to trace the evolution of electoral outcomes and a variety of socioeconomic and cultural indicators culled from census data (e.g. income inequality, land inequality, crime, religiosity, education, etc.) from the entire time period. For our starting point, we use county units in 1895 Imperial Germany and then using geographic sources, construct units that allow us to track these initial county divisions into the Weimar period (1918-1933) and post-war (post-19498) and post-unification (1989) periods. Once completed, the dataset (which will be publicly available) will allow for an unprecedented and comprehensive dataset for all of Germany and portions of Central Europe.
(Source: Kashin and Ziblatt, 2012)
The project entails electoral data collection starting with the late German Empire, spanning the Weimar period and the dissolution of Germany into two states, and ending in the post-reunification era. We seek to trace and explain continuities and changes in German political behavior across a timeframe spanning more than a century.
Working papers currently associated with the project are:
A Missing Historical Variable? The Long Run Effects of Landholding Inequality on Elections in Germany, 1895-2009
Why, has the syndrome of political disengagement, as represented most vividly by low rates of voter participation, been the outgrowth of the postcommunist transitions in Central Europe? In this paper we explore detailed Kreis-level (county) historical data between 1895 and 2009 from the territories governed by the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) to identify the importance of long-run causal dynamics in understanding contemporary voting patterns. We demonstrate that despite being governed by the same communist regime between 1949 and 1990 not only are there stark variations today at the local level in voter turnout rates in the territories of the former GDR, but these contemporary differences are themselves traceable to nineteenth century patterns in rural social structure. In particular, we analyze detailed Kreis-level census data to demonstrate that landholding inequality in the 19th century is negatively related to voter-turnout rates today. Also, bolstering these findings, we investigate further historical evidence from the Weimar period and the period between 1945 and 1989 to test the viability of two alternative causal mechanisms that might explain these results.