Work, Labour, and Professions in the Roman World


The economic success of the Roman Empire was unparalleled in the West until the early modern period. While favourable natural conditions, capital accumulation, technology and political stability all contributed to this, economic performance ultimately depended on the ability to mobilize, train and co-ordinate human work efforts. In Work, Labour, and Professions in the Roman World, the authors discuss new insights, ideas and interpretations on the role of labour and human resources in the Roman economy. They study the various ways in which work was mobilised and organised and how these processes were regulated. Work as a production factor, however, is not the exclusive focus of this volume. Throughout the chapters, the contributors also provide an analysis of work as a social and cultural phenomenon in Ancient Rome.
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Biographical Note

Koenraad Verboven is professor of Ancient History at Ghent University. He has published extensively on social and economic history, including a recent edited volume, Ownership and Exploitation of Land and Natural Resources in the Roman World. (OUP, 2015)

Christian Laes is professor of Latin and Ancient History at the University of Antwerp and adjunct professor at the University of Tampere. He has published five monographs and over seventy international contributions on the socio-cultural history of Roman and Late Antiquity.

Contributors are: Seth Bernard, Sarah Bond, Miko Flohrl, Miriam Groen-Vallinga, Cameron Hawkins, Claire Holleran, Christian Laes, Catharina Lis, Jinyu Liu, Elizabeth Murphy, Hugo Soly, Laurens Tacoma, Nicolas Tran, Koenraad Verboven and Arjan Zuiderhoek.

Review Quotes

"Despite the highly specialized nature of the subject matter as surveyed above, the volume represents a valuable contribution to scholarship by offering an updated guide to a complex field."
Josaphat Tam in BMCR 2017.10.29 ''The papers highlight the variability of labour forms employed, and how firms, social networks and administrative institutions affected the organisation of labour. As such, the volume advocates more nuanced understandings of how social contexts affected economic performance – without necessarily ascribing a positive role to social institutions in lowering transaction costs. (...) In this sense, this collection of essays forms a welcome addition to the scholarly debate.'' Tymon de Haas, Clio 2018.1.002

Table of contents


Abbreviations of Ancient Sources
About the Authors

1 Work, Labour, Professions. What’s in a Name?
Koenraad Verboven and Christian Laes<
2 Sorting Out Labour in the Roman Provinces: Some Reflections on Labour and Institutions in Asia Minor
Arjan Zuiderhoek
3 Contracts, Coercion, and the Boundaries of the Roman Artisanal Firm
Cameron Hawkins
4 Workers in the Roman Imperial Building Industry
Seth G. Bernard
5 Getting a Job: Finding Work in the City of Rome
Claire Holleran
6 The Value of Labour: Diocletian’s Prices Edict
Miriam J. Groen-Vallinga and Laurens E. Tacoma
7 Roman Workers and Their Workplaces: Some Archaeological Thoughts on the Organization of Workshop Labour in Ceramic Production
Elizabeth A. Murphy
8 Constructing Occupational Identities in the Roman World
Miko Flohr
9 Guilds and the Organisation of Urban Populations During the Principate
Koenraad Verboven
10 Group Membership, Trust Networks, and Social Capital: A Critical Analysis
Jinyu Liu
11 Currency and Control: Mint Workers in the Later Roman Empire
Sarah Bond
12 Ars and Doctrina: The Socioeconomic Identity of Roman Skilled Workers (First Century BC–Third Century AD)
Nicolas Tran
13 Work, Identity and Self-Representation in the Roman Empire and the West-European Middle Ages: Different Interplays between the Social and the Cultural
Catharina Lis and Hugo Soly

Index of Subjects
Index of Places and Geographical Names
Index of Personal Names


All interested in the economic and socio-cultural history of the Roman Empire, as well as historians of work and labour of other periods.


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