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CL5306: An Economic and Social History of Roman Italy

20 Credits

Spring Term: Thursday: 11-1 Bedford Square: 0-03

Course Outline

What makes a society? What makes a society work? Since the birth of political economy in the eighteenth century we have understood there to be a fundamental link between politics and economics and that societies are shaped by their economics. Most pre-industrial writers, insulated by their individual wealth from the vagaries of the economy, simply assumed that economics worked themselves and that political structures reflected a natural economic and social system. This appears to have been the view of Roman elites. Yet, economics underpinned the operation of Roman society and politics, whether it be in the emergence of the imperial drive in the early Roman Republic, a drive centred on the poverty and land hunger of the Roman population, the emergence of a wealthy and distinct landed aristocracy in the third and second centuries BC, and the further development of that aristocracy on the back of empire, the growing crisis of the Republic (associated with the Gracchi and Marius) or the Republic’s Fall, brought down by soldiers seeking economic and political rewards. This course will explore the relationship between economics and politics, a relationship as complex in antiquity as it is today, and seek new ways, to understand that relationship and the course of Roman history.


Sessions (Provisional)

  1. Theories of Economy and Society: Finley, Malthus, Marx and Some Others
  2. The Origins of the Roman Economy: Archaic Rome, Land, Money and Food
  3. Hannibal’s Legacy: Arnold Toynbee and the Crisis  of the Roman State
  4. Cato’s farm: Business Planning and How to be a Roman Farmer
  5. The Gracchan Crisis
  6. Rome’s Economic Empire I: War, Wealth, and Class
  7. Economic Growth in Roman Italy: Cities, Villas and Trade
  8. Demographics: Macro-Demographics and Micro-Demographis:  Census and Family in Roman Italy
  9. Rome: Politics and Poverty
  10. Army and Land in the Roman Revolution II: The Triumviral Revolution



Summative: Essay plan (1 essay max 1000 words)

Formative: Essay: 4500 – 5000 words



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