The importance of the length of state history for understanding variations in income levels, growth rates, quality of institutions and income distributions across countries has received a lot of attention in the recent literature on long-run comparative development. The standard approach, however, is to regard statehood as a given. The main objective of this paper is to explore the determinants of statehood and to uncover its deep historical roots. The empirical analysis shows that early transition to fully-fledged agricultural production, adoption of state-of-the-art military innovations, and more opportunity for economic interaction with the regional economic leader all play a catalytic role in the rise and development of the state. However, the hypothesized positive effect of lower cultural diffusion barriers across borders on the rise of statehood is found to be lacking.