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Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: the Maghribi Traders Reappraised

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  • Edwards, J.
  • Ogilvie, S.

Abstract

Economists draw important lessons for modern development from the medieval Maghribi traders who, it has been argued, enforced contracts collectively through a closed, private-order coalition. We show that this view is untenable. Not a single empirical example adduced as evidence of the putative coalition shows that any coalition actually existed. Furthermore, the Maghribis entered business associations with non-Maghribis and used formal enforcement mechanisms. The Maghribi traders cannot be used to argue that the social capital of exclusive, private-order networks will facilitate exchange in developing economies. Nor do they provide any support for the cultural theories of economic development and institutional change for which they have been mobilised.

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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge in its series Cambridge Working Papers in Economics with number 0928.

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Date of creation: 30 Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0928

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  1. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2005. "Surviving Andersonville: The Benefits of Social Networks in POW Camps," NBER Working Papers 11825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Clay, Karen, 1997. "Trade without Law: Private-Order Institutions in Mexican California," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 202-31, April.
  3. Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr. & Lee Hoskins, 2006. "The Case for Market-Based Regulation," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 26(3), pages 469-487, Fall.
  4. Harbord, David, 2006. "Enforcing cooperation among medieval merchants: The Maghribi traders revisited," MPRA Paper 1889, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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Cited by:
  1. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513 Elsevier.
  2. Romain Ferrali, 2012. "The Maghribi industrialists: contract enforcement in the Moroccan industry, 1956-82," Economic History Working Papers 45680, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  3. Mezgebo, Taddese & Dereje, Fikadu, 2010. "Structure, conduct and performance of grain trading in Tigray and its impact on demand for commodity exchange: The case Maychew, Mokone, Alemata, Mekelle and Himora," MPRA Paper 24901, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Greif, Avner, 2008. "Contract enforcement and institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie," MPRA Paper 9610, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjørn, 2008. "The emergence of property rights enforcement in early trade: A behavioral model without reputational effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 48-62, October.
  6. Lydon, Ghislaine, 2009. "A paper economy of faith without faith in paper: A reflection on Islamic institutional history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 647-659, September.
  7. C. Rowley, 2009. "The curious citation practices of Avner Greif: Janet Landa comes to grief," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(3), pages 275-285, September.

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