31 May 2018

WORKSHOP: Law and Economic Performance in the Roman World (Brussels, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts (KVAB)), 13-15 DEC 2018

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Workshop of the Committee for Legal History (KVAB) and the International Research Network of the Flanders Research Foundation ‘Structural Determinants of Economic Performance in the Roman World’.
Organised by Koenraad Verboven (UGent) and Paul Erdkamp (VUBrussel)
Participation is free, but registration is required by mail to

Formal or designed institutions and organisations constitute the visible forms of economic governance. They include laws and official regulations (i.e institutions), and bodies (i.e. organisations) endowed with the authority to formulate, interpret and enforce these at local (e.g. cities) and supra-local (e.g. states and empires) levels, both in private contexts (e.g. guilds) and public ones (e.g. armies).

Legal systems, most of all Roman law, provided the most comprehensive and powerful formal regulatory frameworks for economic transactions in the Roman empire.  Property law protected private holdings in varying degrees--as full ownership, possession, usufructs, and servitudes. The law of obligations stipulated how legitimate claims and dues could be created and extinguished. Inheritance law regulated the transmission of property rights, claims and obligations between generations. Procedural law provided ways to settle disputes and enforce agreements.
Scholars have debated the practical usefulness of Roman law for economic agents. Pre-roman legal systems—indigenous, ethnic (for instance Jewish), or Hellenistic—continued in use in the provinces until Roman citizenship was universalized with the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 CE. Merchants and businessmen in the provinces were confronted with a mosaic of different legal frameworks and legal statuses. Some argue that the absence of state-provided protection of private property rights and the lack of state-provided contract enforcement implied that the law only provided a discursive and normative framework, while legal enforcement would have depended on the more or less voluntary submission by litigants, propped up by social pressures and self-help.

In this workshop we want to look closely at the actual legal processes that regulated economic activities and how they interrelated with social practice.

Key-note speakers include Boudewijn Sirks, Dennis Kehoe, Hannah Cotton, Elisabeth Hermann-Otto, Peter Sarris

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