Mark Koyama: The End of the Past https://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/11/should-read-mark-koyama-the-end-of-the-pasthttpsmediumcommarkkoyamathe-end-of-the-past-2f028cb970ed-temin.html: 'Temin’s GDP estimates suggest that Roman Italy had comparable per capita income to the Dutch Republic in 1600..... Aelius Aristides celebrating the wealth of the Roman empire in the mid-2nd century AD... a panegyric addressed to flatter the emperor but its emphasis on long-distance trade, commerce, manufacturing is highly suggestive. Such a speech is all but impossible to imagine in an predominantly rural and autarkic society. Aristides is painting a picture of a highly developed commercialized economy that linked together the entire Mediterranean and beyond. Even if he is grossly exaggerates, the imagine he depicts must have been plausible to his audience. In evaluating the Roman economy in the age of Aristides, Schaivone notes that: "Until at least mid-seventeenth century Amsterdam, so expertly described by Simon Schama—the city of Rembrandt, Spinoza, and the great sea-trade companies, the product of the Dutch miracle and the first real globalization of the economy—or at least, until the Spanish empire of Philip II, the total wealth accumulated and produced in the various regions of Europe reached levels that were not too far from those of the ancient world..." This is the point Temin makes. Whether measured in terms of the size of its largest cities—Rome in 100 AD was larger than any European city in 1700—or in the volume of grain, wine, and olive oil imported into Italy, the scale of the Roman economy was vast by any premodern standard. Quantitively, then, the Roman economy looks as large and prosperous as that the early modern European economy. Qualitatively, however, there are important differences...

...Roman history leaves no traces of great mercantile companies like the Bardi, the Peruzzi or the Medici. There are no records of commercial manuals of the sort that are abundant from Renaissance Italy... no political economy or “economics”.... The most obvious institutional difference between the ancient world and the modern was slavery. Recently historians have tried to elevate slavery and labor coercion as crucial causal mechanism in explaining the industrial revolution. These attempts are unconvincing (see this post) but slavery certainly did dominate the ancient economy...


#noted #2019-12-30

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