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Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution

  • Cantoni, Davide
  • Yuchtman, Noam

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 not affected by excluding cities close to universities or cities belonging to territories that included universities. Universities provided training in newly-rediscovered Roman and Canon law; students with legal training served in positions that reduced the uncertainty of trade in medieval Europe. 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.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 12896.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:12896
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  1. Cantoni, Davide & Yuchtman, Noam, 2013. "The political economy of educational content and development: Lessons from history," Munich Reprints in Economics 20002, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Voigtländer, Nico & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2011. "Persecution Perpetuated: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany," CEPR Discussion Papers 8365, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  4. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2008. "Long Term Persistence," CEPR Discussion Papers 6981, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  9. 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.
  10. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  11. 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.
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