Speaker: Charles de Dampierre, Valentin Thouzeau and Nicolas Baumard
Affiliation: Institut Jean Nicod, Département d’études cognitives, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS
Title: Using Online Catalogs to Estimate Economic Development in Classical Antiquity
Abstract: Despite significant progress, economic development in Classical Antiquity remains difficult to study: proper economic data (e.g. agricultural production, wages) are scarce, estimates of urbanization, GDP or population remain highly uncertain, and the use of indirect markers of development such as shipwrecks or coin hoards is limited. Here, we propose a different approach based on the production of immaterial works (e.g. poems, philosophical treatises, musical pieces, scientific work). Immaterial works require time, energy, resources, and human capital to be produced, disseminated and appreciated, and thus indirectly reflect a wide range of economic processes. Moreover, their survival rate tends to be higher because they can be abstracted from their initial material incarnation (e.g. scrolls, manuscripts) and preserved throughout the centuries. We build a large database of cultural producers (painters, scientists, etc.) that exist in online catalogs (Library of Congress ID, GND ID, VIAF ID, Iranica ID etc) and create an estimate of immaterial production that is robust and consistent across cultures and sources. We show that immaterial production in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome is closely related to economic development, and reveals important phases of economic development. Overall, immaterial production provides new insights into the roots and the evolution of economic development in the very long run in Classical Antiquity.