Walter Scheidel (Stanford), "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

Friday, January 11, 2019

12:15 pm

110-112 Map

Sponsored by:
Department of Classics

The fall of the Roman empire was the best thing that ever happened. Its dramatic collapse and the enduring failure of empire-building in later European history ensured competitive fragmentation between and within states. This rich diversity encouraged institutional, commercial and technological breakthroughs that lifted the ancient burdens of sickness, ignorance and want. European economies pulled ahead of those in other parts of the world where predatory conquest regimes and conservative imperial traditions prevailed. Empire’s double failure to return to Europe and to create the right conditions for transformative development elsewhere thus explains why and where the world began to become modern. In a preview of his forthcoming book Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity, Scheidel focuses on key questions: Why did the Roman empire rise at all? Why did nothing like it ever appear again in that part of the world? Why do the many competing explanations for the origins of modern human flourishing all critically depend on these earlier developments? And what, if anything, did the Romans ever do for us?

Walter Scheidel is Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. He works on premodern social and economic history, historical demography, and the comparative world history of labor, state formation, inequality and human welfare.

Friday, January 11, 2019
12:15 pm – 1:30 pm
110-112 Map

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served.


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General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni/Friends