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Using a new dataset constructed matching the Demographic Health Surveys with Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, we investigate the determinants of violence against women in Africa. We focus on cultural determinants of violence arising from ancient living arrangements, types of economic activities and marriage patterns. Our outcomes include both violence actually experienced by women and attitudes towards domestic violence reported by men and women. We nd evidence consistent with two hypotheses. First, ancient socioeconomic conditions determine social norms about gender roles, family structures and intrafamily violence which persist over time even when the initial conditions change. We show that norms about marriage patterns, living arrangements and the productive role of women in ancient times are associated with contemporary violence. Second, women's economic role aects violence in a complex way. On the one hand, in societies where in pre-colonial times women had an active economic role and/or a brideprice was paid upon marriage, implying a high economic value of women, men are less prone to violence today. On the other hand,we find increases in domestic violence for couples where the woman is currently economically independent, i.e., where she may have more bargaining power and pose a threat to the husband.