Abstract: We study whether a positive historical shock can generate long-term persistence in development. We show that Italian cities that achieved self-government in the Middle Ages have a higher level of civic capital today than similar cities in the same area that did not. The size of this effect increases with the length of the period of independence and its intensity. This effect persists even after accounting for the fact that cities did not become independent randomly. We conjecture that the Middle-Age experience of self-government fostered self-efficacy beliefs—beliefs in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals—and this positive attitude, transmitted across generations, enhances civic capital today. Consistently, we find that fifth-graders in former free city-states exhibit stronger self-efficacy beliefs and that these beliefs are correlated with a higher level of civic capital. (JEL: O43, P16, O10)