There can be few topics in Roman archaeology and history that are contested with such vigour and widespread interest as the Roman economy. In part, this present situation arises as a legacy of older debates on the significance of ancient economic growth and long-distance trade, in which key twentieth-century figures such as M.I. Finley, M. Rostovtzeff and K. Hopkins continue to loom large and provide compelling insights. More recently, the debate has been re-cast around questions of state involvement vs free markets, and the extent of market integration, as this pair of edited collections demonstrates. On the one hand, Trade, commerce and the state in the Roman World (edited by Andrew Wilson and Alan Bowman, hereafter TCS) takes a big picture view on the role of the Roman state in long-distance trade, arising from a conference that took place in 2009 as part of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project, ‘The Economy of the Roman Empire: Integration, Growth and Decline’. In contrast, The economic integration of Roman Italy (edited by Tymon de Haas and Gijs Tol, hereafter EIRI) brings together a series of typically smaller-scale studies focused on understanding the impact of economic changes on rural communities in Roman Italy. It emerges from another conference, held in 2013, this time as part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research project ‘Fora, Stations, and Sanctuaries: the Role of Minor Centres in the Economy of Roman Central Italy’.
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