Les marchés antiques. Espaces, pratiques, institutions is an international network of ancient market analysis, created by the CNRS (France) from January 1st, 2009. Associating scholars from 12 laboratories of Europe and of North America, it leads a program of thematic research in economic history and publishes its results.
The study of the ancient economy has been the object of an age-old debate which became particularly lively from the second part of the XIXth century. Since the 1990’s one can talk in terms of a renewed interest in economic history at a time when a thorough evaluation of M.I. Finley’s conceptions started to be conducted. Consequently, trading activities have been recognised as constituting a core issue in connection with which a large series of difficulties and questions has become focused. This, however, creates some problems. Thus although the market place is obviously central to the debate on ancient economy, it has nonetheless not constituted the central aspect of scholarly reflexion. As a matter of fact, the ancient market has hardly been an object of study as such, but has tended to be pushed aside in the interest of drawing a polemical distinction between opposing sides of the debate. What needs to be done is to produce a joint history of spaces, institutions and behaviours, while avoiding abstract discussion of the ‘market’, focusing the debate instead on the notion of ‘concret’ or ‘imperfect’ markets. K. Polanyi’s views, which for a long time have prevailed in economic anthropology, have been marked by a strict dualism between societies without a market economy followed in time by those that are endowed with it. However, such a transition makes its appearance precisely at the time of ancient Greece.
Economic history has first to adopt a historical approach so as to avoid establishing a systematic split between two periods which can only end up putting the psychological aspect on one side and pure economic rationality on the other. Unlike Finley’s presuppositions, the cultural structure peculiar to antiquity finds its explanation in specific elements of a market space for which one needs to outline both the implementation and mode of operation. Our aim is to understand ancient economy for itself without preliminary reference to a contemporary historical model: to understand ancient economy as both economy and ancient.
Selected bibliography on the topic :
Rostovzeff, M. I., The Social an Economic History of the Hellenistic World (1941). Traduction française : Histoire économique et sociale du monde hellénistique (1989).
Polanyi, K., Arensberg, C. M., Pearson, H. W., Trade and Market in the Early Empires (1957). Traduction française : Les Systèmes Economiques dans l’histoire et dans la théorie (1975).
Finley, M. I., The Ancient Economy (1973). Traduction française : L’Economie antique (1975).
Garnsey, P., Hopkins, K., Whittaker, C. R. (eds), Trade in the Ancient Economy (1983).
Andreau, J., Briant, P., Descat R. (eds), Les échanges dans l’Antiquité : le rôle de l’Etat (1994).
Andreau, J., Briant, P., Descat R. (éds), Prix et formation des prix dans les économies antiques (1997).
Parkins, H., Smith, C. J. (eds), Trade, Traders and the Ancient City (1998).
Archibald, Z. H., Davies, J., Gabrielsen, V., Oliver G. (eds), Hellenistic Economies (2001).
Archibald, Z. H., Davies, J., Gabrielsen, V., Oliver G. (eds), Making, Moving and Managing. The New World of Ancient Economies, 323-31 BC (2005).
Descat R. (éd.), Approches de l’économie hellénistique (2006).
Morris, I., Saller, R., Scheidel W. (eds), The Cambridge Economic History of the Ancient Graeco-Roman World (2007).