The economy of the Roman Empire was predominantly agrarian: Roman landowners, agricultural laborers, and small tenant farmers were highly dependent upon one another for assuring stability. By examining the property rights established by the Roman government, in particular the laws concerning land tenure and the contractual relationships between wealthy landowners and the tenant farmers to whom they leased their land, Dennis P. Kehoe is able to demonstrate how the state fostered economic development and who benefited the most.
In this bold application of economic theory, Kehoe explores the relationship between Roman private law and the development of the Roman economy during a crucial period of the Roman Empire, from the second to the fourth century C.E. Kehoe is able to use the laws concerning land tenure, and the Roman government’s enforcement of those laws, as a window through which to develop a more comprehensive view of the Roman economy. With its innovative application of the methodologies of law and economics and the New Institutional Economics Law and the Rural Economy in the Roman Empire is a groundbreaking addition to the study of the Roman economy.