Law and History Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 1984), pp. 1-20. From Law and History Review. Copyright 1984 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with permission of the University of Illinois Press. This material, in whole or in part, may not be reproduced, photocopied, posted on another website or distributed by any means without the written permission of the University of Illinois Press.


I have two aims in producing this paper. First, I wish to contribute to the general understanding of how and why law develops and explain the evolution of some very familiar legal institutions. Second, I wish to add to our knowledge of the history of Roman law, by producing a radically different view of the development of contracts, that is, I believe, both consistent with surviving textual data and plausible with regard to human behavior.