Now Available: Law and Transaction Costs in the Ancient Economy

By David Ratzan

As the economist George Stigler once put it, transaction costs are the “friction” in an economic system, and so their analysis is vital to understanding institutional design and economic performance. This is no less true for ancient economies than it is for industrialized ones, although the sources of friction and the responses to them were particular to the specific economic and cultural conditions that prevailed in the ancient Mediterranean. The editors and contributors to this volume thus seek to understand some of the various costs associated with doing business in the ancient world and how individuals, organizations, and states strategized around them, particularly the comparatively high cost of information in the ancient world. 

Law and Transaction Costs in the Ancient Economy is the first volume to collect specific studies in topics from ancient law and history from a transaction cost perspective, with the aim of presenting a variety of models of this new way of looking at ancient evidence. After a methodological introduction by the editors, among whom is ISAW's Head Librarian, David M. Ratzan, the contributors investigate the roles and effects of transaction costs in fourth-century Athens, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, and late antiquity, on the basis of legal texts, papyri, and inscriptions. Collected here are some of the leading voices on TC analysis in ancient history, as well as established scholars, including several who do not usually publish in English: Alain Bresson, Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci, Rudolf Haensch, Dennis Kehoe, François Lerouxel, J. G. Manning, Brian Muhs, Josiah Ober, David M. Ratzan, Gerhard Thür, and Uri Yiftach.