The elite of the Roman Empire, Sir Moses Finley argues, frowned upon commerce. The true gentleman was a gentleman farmer, an absentee landlord of a series of estates. He cherished self-sufficiency, and preferred prestige over profit. Agriculture therefore never became much more productive, regional markets never merged into one. The Roman economy was different, Finley concludes, and, above all, underdeveloped. Although in Ancient Greek History Finley s ideas have gained more or less universal acceptance, many a Roman scholar has found his picture of a primitive, underdeveloped society difficult to accept. So-called formalists flood the scientific fora with ever more examples of large-scale trade and manufacture, and of elite involvement in them. In the Finley camp, however, these are routinely brushed aside as exceptions to the substantivist rule. Debate is stuck. Both formalists and substantivists seem to regard specialisation and trade as the main motor for pre-industrial economic growth. And both camps seem to equate this type of growth to long-distance trade. Indeed, long-distance trade often plays a part in pre-modern economic growth, but it is not a necessary ingredient. For a period of time in which the level of technology set a limit to economies of scale and kept transportation costs high, we must be careful not to confuse specialisation and division of labour with the spatial division of production. Besides, both formalists and substantivists focus on the supply side of the economy, on trade and production. Hardly any attention has been paid to the demand side, to consumption. For my PhD thesis I will therefore focus on the demand side of the Roman economy: I will try to measure standard of living. Reconstruction of real wage and other such traditional indicators of living standards is problematic: we simply do not have enough reliable data. Physicians and epidemiologists of a.o. UNESCO have long been using stature as an indicator of living standards. Since the famous article by Fogel many economists and historians have followed suit. I will get on the bandwagon and collect stature data from Roman skeletons allthough for technical reasons I will gather long bone length rather than total body stature.
Onderzoek naar (verschillen en veranderingen in) de levensstandaard van de inwoners van het Romeinse Rijk onderzoeken, met gebruikmaking van physisch-anthropologisch onderzoek naar menselijke skeletresten.