צמיחה כלכלית באימפריה הרומית

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Abstract

Most scholars agree that the Roman Empire experienced economic growth. However, the extent of that growth and whether it was per capita economic growth has been the focus of much scholarly debate. This study considers these issues for the benefit of the Hebrew reader and investigates whether Roman economic growth was subject to the constraints imposed by the demographic theory of Thomas Malthus, known as the ‘Malthusian trap’.
The paper begins with a preliminary explanation of the Malthusian theory, followed by an introduction to the scholarly discourse on the ancient economy and its historiographic framework. After a short literature review of available economic indicators (e.g. shipwrecks as evidence for trade, air pollution recorded in ice cores as evidence for metalwork, etc.). The paper questions the relevance of the Malthusian theory for explaining patterns of economic growth in the Roman Empire, especially the underlying hypothesis that improvements in production result in population growth. Although technological and institutional improvements promoted by Roman state authorities enabled the increase of production far beyond minimal subsistence levels, decisions regarding birth rates, hence population size, were influenced by culturally based parameters more than consumption possibilities.
Given that the existing evidential basis for the Roman past does not allow to prove or refute a Malthusian scenario for the Roman world, the paper argues against the validity of a Malthusian scenario for the Roman economy. Based on difference in settlement patterns between eastern and western parts of the empire, the paper stresses the institutional importance of urbanization processes and their impact on labour markets in the Roman world. Found on these, it reasons those other explanations better suite existing evidence for the history of economic growth in the Roman Empire than the Malthusian doctrine
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)5-38
Number of pages34
Journalהיסטוריה: כתב-עת של החברה ההיסטורית הישראלית
Volume43-44
StatePublished - 2019

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