The Demand for Extra-Local Forms of Dispute Resolution

Excerpt from a Set of Communal Resolutions, 1744

Formal mechanisms for the enforcement of property rights and the resolution of disputes are thought to be essential to long term economic development and political stability. But how do these get established and what makes people in a society willing to use them? More recent attempts to create such mechanisms in places like post-Soviet eastern … Continue reading The Demand for Extra-Local Forms of Dispute Resolution

Serfdom, the State, and the Problem of Enforcement

Until fairly recently, history was written primarily with a focus on the state, using sources generated by states (or early versions of states). Historians' views of how past societies worked came from sources that actually told us more about how societies were governed or how those in government thought their societies worked (or ought to … Continue reading Serfdom, the State, and the Problem of Enforcement

Quarantine in History: No Easy Way Out

It was easy to imagine, before the pandemic arrived, that societies today would handle an epidemiological challenge much better than those in the past had done. And in many ways that’s proven to be the case. Scientific knowledge and advanced technology have made it possible to quickly identify viruses and their mutations, to generate and … Continue reading Quarantine in History: No Easy Way Out

Beliefs and Behavior in the Past

In recent years, social scientists have started taking on board the idea that cultural norms, attitudes, and beliefs are important determinants of behavior. A growing body of work theorizes about their origins, considers their relationship to institutions, and explores their significance for important questions in economics and political science. Since I am a historian, and … Continue reading Beliefs and Behavior in the Past

The Medieval Church and Western European Marriage Patterns

It has been over 50 years now since John Hajnal first pointed out the existence of a “European Marriage Pattern” (EMP). Who’d have thought that behavior most often associated with modern societies – late age at first marriage, neolocality (the formation of a separate household at marriage), and large proportions of never-married persons – could … Continue reading The Medieval Church and Western European Marriage Patterns

History and Institutions: It’s Complicated

Institutions are a common theme at Broadstreet. Many of us study how institutions have shaped political, economic, and social outcomes in the past. We are interested in different aspects of this problem and we use different approaches. The friction between these produces some sparks, but we needn’t get too distracted by the more adversarial aspects … Continue reading History and Institutions: It’s Complicated