Abstract: This article analyzes the determinants of local institutions in Brazil. We show that institutional quality and distribution of land are partly inherited from the colonial histories experienced by different areas of the country. The sugar cane boom—characterized by an oligarchic society—is associated with more land inequality. The gold boom—characterized by a heavily inefficient presence of the Portuguese state—is associated with worse governance and access to justice. We do not find similar effects for a postcolonial boom (coffee). We also find that the colonial episodes are correlated with lower provision of public goods.