Ghosts of Trade Routes Past:
Pre-colonial Networks and Persistence in Modern Trade

This paper studies the persistence of pre-colonial trade relationships on modern trade and development in Africa. I construct a newly digitised and geo-referenced dataset of historical trade posts and routes for pre-colonial Africa. The paper tests the impact of several features of these historical trade networks including the presence, connectedness, and size of trade hubs as well as the connections themselves on modern trade flows between countries.  I find that these historical trade links have significant persistent effects. Historical network inclusion is quantitatively similar to other institutional trade links, with trade nearly doubling for countries within the same network. This is found to increase with both the country's level of integration and the prominence of the historical trade hub within the pre-colonial networks. Importantly, there are also significant agglomeration effects with modern economic activity concentrating around more prominent historical trade hubs.

Working Paper