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How did farming shape the world?

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How did farming shape the world?

Residents of Coventry and Warwickshire were able to hear from Professor Omer Moav about a 17-year research project which has challenged conventional ways of thinking about the origins of civilisation itself, thanks to the ESRC Festival of Social Science and the Warwick Institute of Engagement.

Professor Moav’s public lecture took place in the beautiful surroundings of St. Mary's Guildhall in Coventry on the evening of Wednesday 26th October.

It was one of the first events of this year’s ESRC FestivalLink opens in a new window programme.

Professor Moav gave an engaging presentation of his research, which was done in collaboration with colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Reichman University, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Barcelona School of Economics.

The work challenges the long-established view, dating back to Adam Smith (1723-1790), that complex, hierarchical societies were able to develop thanks to the transition from foraging to farming which created a surplus of food in fertile areas.

Professor Moav explained that his research has shown that it was not farming surplus that affected the development of civilisations, but rather the types of crops grown. The key factor in the development of complex states is the suitability of land to cereal farming, because cereals require to be harvested and stored above ground, making them vulnerable to appropriation by tax collectors. When it became possible to appropriate crops, a taxing elite emerged, eventually leading to the state.

In addition to having the opportunity to attend in person Professor Moav’s lecture was livestreamed via the Warwick Institute of Engagement YouTube channel. It can be watched here Link opens in a new window.

Reflecting upon the event Professor Moav said:

“The ESRC Festival of Social Sciences was the perfect opportunity for me to share the seventeen years of research underpinning my article with Joram Mayshar and Luigi Pascali “The Origin of the State: Land Productivity or Appropriability?” published in the Journal of Political Economy, with interested members of the general public.

“I would recommend participating in future ESRC Festivals of Social Science to other researchers. My thanks to St. Mary’s Guildhall for being an excellent venue.”

  • The event was produced in partnership with the Warwick Institute of Engagement and St. Mary’s Guildhall who gave use of their spectacular city centre venue.