State presence and longevity have long been associated with growth and development, and yet analyzing their relationship remains challenging as both the length of state rule and geographical boundaries change over time. After addressing conceptual and practical concerns on its construction, we present a measure of the mean duration of state rule that is aimed at resolving some of these issues. We then present our findings on the relationship between our measure and local development, drawing from observations in Europe spanning from 0 AD to 2000 AD. We find that during this period, the mean duration of state rule and the local income level have a nonlinear, inverse U-shaped relationship, controlling for a set of historical, geographic and socioeconomic factors. Regions that have historically experienced short or long duration of state rule on average lag behind in their local wealth today, while those that have experienced medium- duration state rule on average fare better.