How Unique Was Ragusa? Some Comparisons with Venice and Others

  • Oleh Havrylyshyn
  • Nora Srzentić
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


In this book we have tried to demonstrate that Ragusan mediaeval period prosperity was less due to any luck of location or circumstance, and more to a wide range of wise policies that modern-day development theory describes, ranging from fiscal and monetary prudence to various aspects of good institutions favouring business activities, providing security of property rights and a fair system of legal procedures, rule-of-law in short. We have also documented a widespread system of social programmes and poverty mitigation — again an aspect very much emphasized in modern societies, especially since the Great Recession. While Ragusan economic success clearly exceeds that of other city-states on the Dalmatian coast, and indeed its maritime commerce made it a serious rival of far larger Venice, we have not tried to make the case that its better performance is attributable to superior institutions. Testing such a hypothesis would fit exactly into the New Institutional thesis that better institutions result in better economic growth, greater prosperity. Yes, the thrust of our evidence and arguments do point in that direction, but a rigorous test of that hypothesis would have required compilation of evidence on performance and institutional quality in Venice analogous to what we did for Ragusa. Such an exercise may not be possible, but even if it were it would be an enormous piece of academic research that requires additional resources.


Adriatic Coast Italian City External Affair Maritime Trade Great Prosperity 
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© Oleh Havrylyshyn and Nora Srzentić 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oleh Havrylyshyn
  • Nora Srzentić

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