The Mounties and the Origins of Peace in the Canadian Prairies | 2015

Through a study of the settlement of the Canadian Prairies, I examine if differences in violence across regions reflect the historical ability of the state to centralize authority and monopolize violence. I compare settlements that in the late 1880s were located near Mountie-created forts with those that were not. Data from the 1911 Census reveal that settlements far from the Mounties’ reach had unusually high adult male death rates. Even a century later the violence in these communities continues. In 2014, communities located at least 100 kilometers from former Mountie forts during their settlement had 45% more homicides and 55% more violent crimes per capita than communities located closer to former forts. I argue that these differences may be explained by a violent culture of honor that emerged as an adaptation to the lack of a central authority during the settlement but persisted over time. In line with this interpretation, I find that those who live in once-lawless areas are more likely to hold conservative political views. In addition, I use data for hockey players to uncover the influence of culture on individual behavior. Though players interact in a common environment, those who were born in areas historically outside the reach of the Mounties are penalized for their violent behavior more often than those who were not.