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Slavery, Serfdom, and Economic Growth in Eurasia: The Great Divergence Reconsidered - A lecture by Alessandro Stanziani

The expansion of Muscovy relied not only on military and diplomatic forces, but also on trade and labor. In this lecture, Alessandro Stanziani will develop an original study of slaves, bonded people, and war captives and trade between Russia, Central Asia, India, and the Mediterranean between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Without the Eurasian slave trade, Mediterranean and later transatlantic slavery would have been radically different.

The heritage of Eurasian slavery and state expansion was important in Russia and Inner Asia as well. In contrast to widely accepted views, Stanziani argues that there never was a central institutionalization of “serfdom” in Russia; instead, there were many local forms of bondage. Stanziani also argues that that Russian economic growth under serfdom was significant. This conclusion implies that there is no evidence that Russian and Eastern European serfdom contributed to the region’s backwardness in relationship to Europe. Thus, the history of global capitalism needs to be re-assessed. Contrary to commonly held views, Stanziani argues that political rights and a free market are not guaranteed or even a necessary condition for markets and economic growth. The examples of nineteenth-century Russia and contemporary China testify to this fact. This perspective from Russia questions the conventional opposition between Europe and Asia as well as recent arguments on the great divergence. None of those arguments can stand after our study.

In the conclusion, Stanziani will discuss the global implications of the political philosophy of economic modernization. The revised history of Russia and Eurasia presented here will show that economic growth and markets are perfectly compatible with lack of democracy and unequal social rights.

Details

When:

Thursday, November 7, 2013. 04:30 PM

Where:

Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room