Scholars are becoming increasingly aware that the economic relevance of Roman professional associations as well was more important than so far assumed. Few data indicate that they acted as regulatory agencies (as was the case for many later European guilds who defined and controlled quality, craftsmanship, licenses etc.), but collegia did provide trust networks, support systems and credit facilities, and they negotiated with local and imperial administrations. At least in some cases they collectively owned or leased productive property and (in at least one known instance) even fixed prices. In other words, professional association had a profound impact on the structure of the Roman economy.
There is, however, no general study so far on the economic dimensions of professional associations in the Roman world that would pull together these various threads. This book will partly fill that gap. I will focus on questions that are central in economic history, such as:
- How successful were collegia in affecting political action to favor their professional interests (for instance regarding regulations or infrastructure)?
- How did collegia affect access to resources, and the creation of and access to capital and capital goods? Both issues are closely related to the question of ownership rights and entitlements.
- How did collegia affect the organization of labor? The division of specialized labor required for Smithian growth creates organizational problems. Did collegia contribute in dealing with these (for instance by instituting social control mechanisms)?
- Collegia certainly stimulated the circulation of ideas between members, but did they also affect the reproduction of skills and the creation and spread of new technologies?