The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Palgrave Macmillan

Hunters, Gatherers, Cities and Evolution

  • Paul Seabright
Living reference work entry


Human beings evolved in hunter-gatherer bands, and tended to flee from or to fight with strangers. They have subsequently learned to live in cities among a multitude of such strangers, at levels of violence far lower than those that characterized prehistory. The key to this development was the adoption of agriculture, which obliged humans to become sedentary to and to develop institutions to manage their encounters with strangers. We describe the evolution of the psychological preconditions for the agricultural revolution, and its consequences for social life.


Agricultural revolution City Cooperation and its evolution Division of labour Equality Evolution Group selection Hierarchy Hunter-gatherers Learning Other- regarding preferences Population growth Reciprocity Repeated games Signalling Slavery Trust Urbanization 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Seabright
    • 1
  1. 1.