Money, marriages and manumission. The family business in the Roman economy (2nd c. BC - 2nd c. AD)

Start - End 
2015 - 2018 (stopped)
Department of History
Research Focus 
Research Period 



This project aims to write the history of Roman family businesses and thereby to contribute to historical family firm research in the long run. The purpose is to analyze the nature of Roman family firms and their potential in coping with the demands and limitations of a pre-industrial economy. The project will follow the ‘life course’ of a Roman family firm through different stages, from the establishment and training of the labor pool to the eventual demise or transfer to the next generation. Particular attention will be given to those determinants of the Roman economy that allow a specific kind of family firm to develop. First, the availability of slave and freedman labor motivated entrepreneurs to establish quite extended family firms, due to the relatively limited costs of slave holding or extending cooperation with manumitted slaves. This labor pool of slaves and freedmen offered a solution to many of the organizational problems family firms encountered (and still encounter), such as finding skilled, trustworthy agents within the family and facilitating the survival of the firm when members of the nuclear family proved unable to manage its interests. Second, the project will also take into account the Roman imperial state formation as a critical factor for family business performance. The pax Romana, the presence of Roman law and the institutional framework stimulated agency over considerable distances and encouraged large family firms to develop.