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Contract enforcement, institutions, and social capital: the Maghribi traders reappraised

  • JEREMY EDWARDS
  • SHEILAGH OGILVIE

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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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2011.00635.x
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Article provided by Economic History Society in its journal The Economic History Review.

Volume (Year): 65 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 421-444

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:65:y:2012:i:2:p:421-444
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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. Harbord, David, 2006. "Enforcing cooperation among medieval merchants: The Maghribi traders revisited," MPRA Paper 1889, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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