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Markets in pre-industrial societies:storage in Hellenistic Babylonia in the English mirror


  • Peter Foldvari
  • Bas van Leeuwen
  • Reinhard Pirngruber


Recent research has shown early economies to exhibit market behavior by using institutions that reduce price volatility. In this paper we focus on storage as a price stabilizing strategy in Babylon using a recent dataset with agricultural prices for the Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic periods (ca. 400 – 65 BC). This dataset allows us to assess the importance of interannual storage (carry-over) in this economy. Comparing this economy with that of medieval England using a cost-benefit analysis, we find, after correcting for the differential crop structure in both regions, a low level of inter-annual storage. Yet, contrary to the expectations of the cost-benefit analysis, the evidence does not indicate a lower interest rate (i.e. costs) in Babylon. This implies that both social structure as well as access to capital markets played a more important role than traditionally assumed in the question of carry-over.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Foldvari & Bas van Leeuwen & Reinhard Pirngruber, 2011. "Markets in pre-industrial societies:storage in Hellenistic Babylonia in the English mirror," Working Papers 0003, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0003

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