Kessler D. and T. Peter (2007) The grain trade in the Roman Empire

June 1, 2008

Kessler David and Temin Peter (2007) “The organization of the grain trade in the early Roman Empire”, Economic History Review, 60/2, 313–332.

“Long-distance trade […] was beset by information problems”. Principal-agent issues have been studied for the medieval/early modern period, this article extends the scope to the Roman merchants. Who did they deal with asymmetric information? In particular how did the logistical nightmare that consisted of providing wheat to Rome’s inhabitants was overcome (313)? After the end of organized piracy in 67 BC, there was still a significant amount of uncertainty for the merchants. How did they managed their agents often located months away in distant provinces? Read the rest of this entry »


Grantham G. W. (1997) The impact of pre-industrial cities on agrarian productivity

May 25, 2008

Grantham George W. and Sarget Marie-Noëlle (1997) “Espaces privilégiés : productivité agraire et zones d’approvisionnement des villes dans l’Europe préindustrielle” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 52/3, 695–725

Article available on line.

Low agricultural productivity and high transportation costs before the second half of the 19th century induced a low demographic density (695). In 1821, J. H. von Thünen showed that – due to these characteristics – a series of specialised agrarian rings tended to encircle the cities and ordered so as to minimize transportation costs. The most precious productions (milk, vegetable) were located close to the urban centres, while the bulkiest (wood, grain) tended to be rejected further. Read the rest of this entry »

Abelor G. (1973) The great alteration of the French roads in the 18th century

April 20, 2008

Arbellot Guy (1973) “La grande mutation des routes de France au XVIIIe siècle”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 28/3. 765-791.

This article is available on line.


When Louis XIV died (1715), the roads of the kingdom he was leaving to his successor were in a dreadful state. This was a major bottleneck for the growing economic and administrative activities. The controleur général (finance secretary) Orry and the intendant Trudaine decided to repair the old roads and build new ones where carts and coaches could travel fast. Read the rest of this entry »