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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 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 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17979.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Publication status: published as “Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(2), 823–887. (joint with Davide Cantoni)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17979
Note: DAE ED LE LS POL
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  1. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 4274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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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  7. Cantoni, Davide & Yuchtman, Noam, 2013. "The political economy of educational content and development: Lessons from history," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 233-244.
  8. Acemoglu, Daron & Cantoni, Davide & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A, 2009. "The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution," CEPR Discussion Papers 7245, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  10. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  11. 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.
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