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Unit information: Economy and Society in the Ancient World in 2013/14

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Unit name Economy and Society in the Ancient World
Unit code CLAS12331
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Morley
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


How similar was the ancient world to our own? This question lies at the heart of all discussions of ancient economy and society; it gives them a significance that goes beyond the apparently straightforward questions of how the ancients produced, distributed and consumed food and other goods, and how they organised their society. The 'material base' of the economy not only supported 'classical civilisation', it shaped it and set limits on its development. We shall make use of traditional literary sources, archaeology, comparative evidence from other pre-industrial societies and modern theories, with the aim of understanding not only how the ancient economy and society were structured but also how this might affect our views of the ancient world and how to study it, and even our views of our own society

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will:

  1. Have a good knowledge of the varied sources available for studying the economy and society of the ancient world, and have further developed their understanding of the best way to make use of these sources.
  2. Have developed a good understanding of key features of ancient economic and social structures and institutions, how they shaped and set limits on ‘classical civilization’ and how these can be compared to our own economy and society.
  3. Be able to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.
  4. Have had an opportunity to further develop their skills in oral and written communication, in small groups and general discussion, and in an essay and a written exam.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 2,000 words (worth 50%), and a 90 minute examination (worth 50%). Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3) and (4). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILO (3).

Reading and References

  • M.I. Finney, The Ancient Economy (1999)
  • P. Garnsey + R. Saller, The Roman Empire: Economy, Society, Culture (1987)
  • N. Morley, Trade in Classical Antiquity (2007)
  • W. Scheidel, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy (2012)
  • W. Scheidel + S. Vonreden, eds. The Ancient Economy (2002)