Thursday, July 9, 2009

Medieval Studies: Call for Papers

The International Congress on Medieval Studies has issued a call for papers for the conference "Law as Culture: Lordship, Profit, and Rationality," to be held at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., on May 13-16, 2010. The organizers are Alexander Volokh, Emory Law School, and Paul Hyams, Cornell University. The call follows; information on submissions is here.
Both economic and legal argument draws deeply on notions of reason and logic. These are found among ordinary men and women far from the schools. As economic historians document, medieval people (prudent peasants, as McCloskey puts it) were perfectly capable of responding to economic incentives. Moreover, law played a crucial role in shaping those incentives. We welcome proposals for papers that explicitly link legal history with economic history in explaining the dynamics of
medieval life and culture.

Here are some examples of possible topics:

-- The canon law generated regulations concerning Usury, the Just price etc. during the "long" Twelfth Century. Meanwhile, secular laws sought to regulate markets (through laws on forestalling, regrating, engrossing, Assize of Bread and Ale etc.) and boosted those on coining offenses. This sustained attempt to restrain economic activity through law must be largely explicable from the context of economic change against which it was made. How might the Legal Revolution (the whole or any part) and the rising "Profit Economy" (Lester Little) be causally linked?

-- Why did England's Angevin reforms of land law precede by at least a generation the provision of common law remedies for defaults by economic agents (action of Account) and the alienation of capital assets by tenants for life (action of Waste)?

-- How far can economics (e.g., far fewer seigniorial demesnes) explain why the Capetians and other European rulers did not transform their land law in a similar way to the English?

-- Did the development of accounting practices (e.g., input-output, like the English Pipe Rolls, double-entry, profit-and-loss, etc.) advance the cause of rationality in commerce and law in any material way? The lexicography of "reason" and associated words would be interesting in this context. So might possible changes in the themes of literature such as fabliaux, such as the balance between sexual and financial trickery in the victories of women and other supposedly disempowered characters over their superiors.

-- What measure of economic analysis was possible before words like capital, interest, profit entered European languages in the generations surrounding 1200?

-- Were advances in numeracy as relevant to legal history as they patently are to the development of economic rationality?

Most generally, we welcome contributions along the following lines:

-- What economic phenomena can be better understood as driven, or at least influenced, by legal change?

-- What medieval social phenomena previously thought to be beyond the domain of economics can be explained as rational behavior by goal-oriented agents maximizing their utility subject to constraints?

-- Can the tools of modern economics such as game theory, contract theory, or behavioral economics enhance our understanding of medieval history?

-- To what extent can we explain legal change itself as the response of particular people in power to economic incentives?
Hat tip: H-Law

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