Selected Works M.I. Finley: Ancient Economy

2020-07-02 | By Historian | Filed in: Culture.

What is the difference between ancient economy and modern economy? Whether the ancient economy has the characteristics and regularity revealed by the modern economic theory. Finley believed that there was no economic field in the modern sense in ancient times. The ancient economy was more related to wealth, status and identity, and was not purely a question of whether to make profits or not. This explanation of ancient economy not only deepens the understanding of the ancient world, but also subverts the long-standing traditional viewpoint to a certain extent, and reveals the defects and limitations of modern economic theory.

The publication of “Ancient Economy” made “Ancient Economics a changeable field” and stimulated generations of scholars to continuously and fiercely argue about the ancient Greek and Roman economy.

-Edit Recommendation

“Ancient Economy”

(Translation of Classical Civilization)

By M.I. Finley

Translated by Huang Yang

Binding: Paperback

Pricing: 55.00 yuan

Page: xxvii+268

Publication date: 2020-05

ISBN: 978-7-100-18077-1

Cover Design: Lu Zhichang

[Expert Recommendation]

No book in the 20th century had such a great influence on the study of Greek and Roman economic history.

A quarter century after its publication, “Ancient Economy” is still firmly at the center of the debate. Finley showed decisively that philological and empirical history can grasp ancient economic phenomena. Scholars are still doing a lot of excellent research in this way, but on the whole, these studies are more about the debates of the 1890s than about the new orthodoxy. “Ancient Economy” is in the middle of the discussion of determinism, economic methods and post-modern literariness. Critics of under-socialization and over-socialization must take Finley’s works seriously if they want to make progress.

-Stanford University Professor Ian Morris

In the past 30 years or so, the study of the economic history of ancient Greece and Rome is perhaps the most hotly debated field in the history of Greece and Rome. In the words of one commentator, “Ancient economics has become an unpredictable field.” This is largely due to the long-term influence of Moses Finley’s 1973 book “Ancient Economy”. This book is undoubtedly the most important book on the social and economic history of ancient Greece and Rome published in the 20th century, and has also established Moses Finley’s position as the greatest ancient historian in the 20th century.

-Huang Yang, Professor of History Department of Fudan University,

 [Content Introduction]

Ancient Economy is one of the representative works of M.I. Finley, a famous British ancient historian. The book was written on the basis of a series of lectures given by the author during his tenure as the world’s most famous Sutherle lecturer professor. This paper mainly expounds the ancient economy, Especially the main characteristics of Greek and Roman world economy, put forward new methods and new ideas to study ancient economy. Its viewpoint is called “Finley Model” by scholars, that is, ancient economy is not a relatively independent field of activity, but “chimeric”, chimeric in its existing social and political environment, and this explanation model has not yet been replaced.

[Introduction to Translator]

Author M.I. Finley (1912-1986) is one of the most influential ancient historians in the West in the 20th century and a professor of ancient history at Cambridge University. Its main research field is the history of ancient Greece, but it focuses more on the whole classical world. Author of “Ancient Economy”, “Ancient Democracy and Modern Democracy”, “Politics in the Ancient World”, “Use and Abuse of History”, “Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology”, “Odysseus’s World” and “Ancient Greeks”.

Translator Huang Yang, Professor of History Department of Fudan University, Doctor of Classics and Doctoral Supervisor of London University, was selected as Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor of Ministry of Education, Chairman of History Department of Fudan University, Vice Chairman of China World Ancient Medieval History Research Association and Chairman of Ancient History Professional Committee. The main research fields are the political history of ancient Greece and Rome, the economic history of ancient Greece and the history of ancient western political thoughts. He has published monographs such as “Research on Land System in Ancient Greece”, “Preliminary Study on Politics and Society in Ancient Greece” and “Introduction to Greek History Research” (co-authored with Yan Shaoxiang). He has also published many academic papers in publications such as “Chinese Social Sciences” and “Historical Research”.


Revision Preface


Preface to the Second Edition

Chronology of events

Map: Roman Empire in the 2nd Century

Chapter 1 Ancient People and Their Economy

Chapter 2 Rank and Status

Chapter 3 Master and Slave

Chapter 4 Landlords and Peasants

Chapter 5 Towns and Villages

Chapter 6 State and Economy

Chapter 7 Further Thinking (1984)

Abbreviations and Title Abbreviations



Postscript of translation

Wonderful trial reading

Some people may object that I arbitrarily limit “economics” to the analysis of capitalist systems, rather than capitalist or pre-capitalist societies also have their own economic systems, their rules and regularity, and even a certain degree of predictability, regardless of whether those societies form concepts about these economic systems. I accept this-but it cannot be said to be “arbitrary”, and I obviously accept that we have the right to study such an economic system and ask ancient society questions that the ancient people themselves never thought of. If my introduction is so lengthy, perhaps too focused on the meaning of words, it is because there is a fundamental problem of methods. Economic language and concepts that all of us, including laymen, are familiar with, and those “principles” will lead us astray, whether Alfred’s or Paul Samuelson’s. For example, in the Greek and Roman world, the wage level and interest rate in a place are relatively stable for a long period of time (of course, fierce political conflicts and military conquests will lead to sudden and large fluctuations), so the use of “labor market” or “capital market” immediately distorts the situation at that time. For the same reason, no modern investment model can be used to explain the preferences of the people who ruled the ancient world.

     ——Excerpt from Chapter 1, pp. 40-41

However, there was external pressure before the end of the 2nd century, and the Roman Empire could not resist this pressure forever. The army cannot be expanded to a sufficient level because the land cannot afford further manpower consumption. The situation on land has worsened because taxes and public welfare aid are too high. The burden is too heavy mainly because military needs are increasing. The vicious circle of disaster is surging. The social and political structure of the ancient world, its deeply embedded and institutionalized value system, and the organization and exploitation of the productive forces as its overall basis all accelerated its death. If we are willing to say so, this is the economic explanation for the end of the ancient world.

——Chapter 6, p. 179

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