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The economic history of sovereignty: communal responsibility, the extended family, and the firm

  • Lars Boerner
  • Albrecht Ritschl

Economic institutions encompassing increasingly sophisticated concepts of risk-sharing and liability flourished in Europe since the High Middle Ages. These innovations occurred in an environment of fragmented local jurisdictions, not within the framework of the territorial state. In this short paper we attempt to sketch a unifying approach towards the interpretation of the emergence of these institutions. We argue that communal responsibility in medieval city states created incentives for excessive risk-taking by individual merchants, and that the emergence of firms mitigated this problem. We also find that entity shielding in the sense of Hansmann et al. (2006) arose endogenously and is not primarily the result of regulation by local authorities.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22307/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22307.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22307
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/

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  1. Boerner, Lars & Ritschl, Albrecht, 2011. "Communal Responsibility and the Coexistence of Money and Credit Under Anonymous Matching," CEPR Discussion Papers 8184, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
  3. Volckart, Oliver, 2004. "The economics of feuding in late medieval Germany," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 282-299, July.
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