Debate Regarding the Magrhibi Traders
- What were the institutions that enforced agency relations in pre-modern trade? I argued that a multilateral reputation mechanism was particularly important among the eleventh-century (Jewish) Maghribis traders in providing the who operated in the Muslim Mediterranean. The related institution, a ‘coalition’, deterred opportunism in bilateral agency relations based on a credible threat of losing future profitable relations in the broader traders’ community. In contrast, legal enforcement and a bilateral reputation mechanism were particularly important among the twelfth-century Genoese traders.
The first counter-argument
- In particular, among the Maghribis bilateral agency relations were established in the context of the Maghribi traders’ group that constituted the social structure within which collectivist belief was shared, a common comprehension of appropriate actions prevailed, and information about conduct and identities circulated.
- In 2008 Edwards and Ogilvie argued that the evidence shows that "the main contract-enforcement mechanism used by the Maghribis [to govern agency relations in long-distance trade] was the legal system" (p. 36).
- Edwards, Jeremy and Ogilvie, Sheilagh. 2008. "Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: The Maghribi Traders Reappraised." CESifo. Working Paper Series No. 2254.
- My 2008 rebuttal refuted this claim
- Greif, Avner, Contract Enforcement and Institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie”, CESifo working papers 9610, 2008.
The second position
- The 2009 version of Edwards and Ogilvie's paper argued that the evidence shows that "the Maghribis, like businessmen in many other economies, enforced contracts by using the legal system alongside informal mechanisms based on reputation and repeated bilateral interactions" (p. 56).
- Edwards, Jeremy and Ogilvie, Sheilagh. 2009. "Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: The Maghribi Traders Reappraised." Cambridge Working Papers in Economics. No. 0928
The third position
- The 2012 version of Edwards and Ogilvie's paper argued that due to insufficient evidence "no sensible conclusions can be drawn concerning the relative importance of the legal system to their [the Maghribis] agency relations" but "as a last resort they used legal mechanisms to enforce agency agreements". "The Maghribi traders combined reputation-based sanctions with legal mechanisms, in ways that resemble the practices of medieval European merchants" (abstract).
- Edwards, Jeremy and Sheilagh Ogilvie. 2012. "Contract Enforcement, Institutions and Social Capital: The Maghribi Traders Reappraised." The Economic History Review.
- Edwards and Ogilvie did not post this paper on the web..
- My 2012 response refutes the new argument in Edwards and Ogilvie. The evidence support my long-held position that although courts and reputation generally matter, their manifestations and relative importance depend on the historical context. The Maghribis and the Genoese relied on distinct contract enforcement institutions.
- Greif, Avner. 2012. "The Maghribi Traders: a Reappraisal?" The Economic History Review.
- Soon to be posted.
- To download the longer version of this paper click here