Kings as Judges: Justice in Institutional Development and Some Insights from (and for) Economic History

Representative institutions have met with renewed interest across the social sciences, either as a dependent variable or as factors in economic or political development. Yet prominent approaches, from economics to political science, assume a bargaining model of representation, whereby rights are granted in exchange for taxes. This assumption, however, fails to explain the prototypical case from which the model is usually derived, England. Placing demand for justice instead at the core of representative emergence in premodern Europe explains puzzles left unaddressed by the bargaining hypothesis. The talk will relay the findings from my book, Kings as Judges, based on a comparative study across 15 cases. It will explain how it is not taxation of urban groups but of the landed elites that matters for representative institutions, why trade was endogenous to parliamentary strength, and how recent data on English economic output help us revise some key assumptions. Finally, this revision encourages a reconsideration of some aspects of the property rights literature. Showing that Ottoman land rights are similar to English conditional land-ownership, whilst mainly differing in the capacity of the state to enforce them, challenges notions of security as key to Western economic divergence.