Contract enforcement and institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie
AbstractEdwards and Ogilvie (2008) dispute the empirical basis for the view (Greif, e.g., 1989, 1994,2006) that multilateral reputation mechanism mitigated agency problems among the eleventh-century Maghribi traders. They assert that the relations among merchants and agents were law-based. This paper refutes this assertion using quantitative and documentary evidence thereby vindicating the position that the legal system had a marginal role in mitigating agency problems in long-distance trade in this historical era. Edwards and Ogilvie constantly present legal actions in non-trade related legal cases as evidence for a reliance on the legal system for matters pertaining to long-distance trade. Their criticism of Greif’s documentary analysis also fails scrutiny. The claim that merchants' relations with their overseas agents were law-based is wrong. This paper is based on quantitative analyses of the corpuses containing the hundreds of documents on which the literature relies and a careful review of the documents and the literature Edwards and Ogilvie cite. Their assertion is shown to be based on unrepresentative and irrelevant examples, an inaccurate description of the literature, and a consistent misreading of the few sources they consulted. In particular, their examples for the use of the court are mainly taken from mandatory legal procedures associated with sorting out the assets and liabilities of deceased traders’ estates. Such examples do not support the claim that agency relations were law-based. The quantitative analysis reveals that empirical basis for the multilateral reputation view is stronger than originally perceived. This paper also sheds light on the roles of the legal system and reputation mechanism during this period.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 9610.
Date of creation: 01 Jul 2008
Date of revision:
institutions; contract-enforcement; reputation; Maghribi traders; agency relations;
Other versions of this item:
- Avner Greif, 2008. "Contract Enforcement and Institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie," Discussion Papers 08-018, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
- Avner Greif, 2008. "Contract Enforcement and Institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie," CESifo Working Paper Series 2350, CESifo Group Munich.
- B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Institutional; Evolutionary
- N25 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Asia including Middle East
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Jeremy Edwards & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2012.
"Contract enforcement, institutions, and social capital: the Maghribi traders reappraised,"
Economic History Review,
Economic History Society, vol. 65(2), pages 421-444, 05.
- Jeremy Edwards & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2008. "Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: the Maghribi Traders Reappraised," CESifo Working Paper Series 2254, CESifo Group Munich.
- Edwards, J. & Ogilvie, S., 2009. "Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: the Maghribi Traders Reappraised," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0928, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
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- Reyerson, Kathryn, 2006. "Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade. By Avner Greif. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xix, 503. $34.99, paper," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 1080-1081, December.
- Greif, Avner, 1996. "The Study of Organizations and Evolving Organizational Forms through History: Reflections from the Late Medieval Family Firm," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 473-501.
- 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.
- Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
- Veronica Coca, 2010. "The Impact of Rules on Economic Activity," Studies and Scientific Researches. Economics Edition, "Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau, Faculty of Economic Sciences, issue 15.
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