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Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution

  • Davide Cantoni
  • Noam Yuchtman

We present new data documenting medieval Europe’s “Commercial Revolution” using information on the establishment of markets in Germany. We use these data to test whether medieval universities played a causal role in expanding economic activity, examining the foundation of Germany’s first universities after 1386 following the Papal Schism. We find that the trend rate of market establishment breaks upward in 1386 and that this break is greatest where the distance to a university shrank most. There is no differential pre-1386 trend associated with the reduction in distance to a university, and there is no break in trend in 1386 where university proximity did not change. These results are robust to estimating a variety of specifications that address concerns about the endogeneity of university location. Universities provided training in newly-rediscovered Roman and canon law; students with legal training served in positions that reduced the uncertainty of trade in the Middle Ages. We argue that training in the law, and the consequent development of legal and administrative institutions, was an important channel linking universities and greater economic activity in medieval Germany.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4452.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4452
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  1. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2008. "Long Term Persistence," NBER Working Papers 14278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Davide Cantoni & Noam Yuchtman, 2013. "The Political Economy of Educational Content and Development: Lessons from History," CESifo Working Paper Series 4221, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Acemoglu, Daron & Cantoni, Davide & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A., 2011. "The consequences of radical reform: The French revolution," Munich Reprints in Economics 20170, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. De Long, J Bradford & Shleifer, Andrei, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 671-702, October.
  5. Bosker, Maarten & Buringh, Eltjo & Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2008. "From Baghdad to London: The Dynamics of Urban Growth in Europe and the Arab World, 800-1800," CEPR Discussion Papers 6833, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Nico Voigtländer & Joachim Voth, 2011. "Persecution perpetuated: The medieval origins of anti-semitic violence in Nazi Germany," Economics Working Papers 1269, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  7. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2007. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," NBER Working Papers 13028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  9. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
  10. Buringh, Eltjo & Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2009. "Charting the “Rise of the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(02), pages 409-445, June.
  11. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
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