Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Medieval Matching Markets

That's the title of a working paper by Lars Börner and Daniel Quint, studying brokerage rules developed by central and western European towns in the years from 1200 to the 1600: their map is below. Traveling merchants would either have the option or be required to deal with local brokers, who operated by a number of different rules (e.g. in some towns they could only act as brokers and could not engage in private deals on their own behalf). The paper analyzes the brokerage rules in a two-sided matching framework, in which considerations of stability are important to the brokers either to avoid having merchants do without brokers, or to avoid having them go to other brokers.

Here's the abstract:
"This paper studies the market microstructure of pre-industrial Europe. In particular we investigate the institution of the broker in markets and fairs, and develop a unique data set of approximately 1100 sets of brokerage rules in 42 merchant towns in Central and Western Europe from the late 13th to the end of the 17th century. We show that towns implemented brokerage as an efficient matchmaking institution in a two-sided market problem. Furthermore, towns differentiated seller-friendly from buyer-friendlier matching mechanisms. We show that the decision to implement matchmaking mechanisms, and whether these mechanisms would be buyer- or seller friendly, depends on the products in question and the stated policy goals of the town, as well as time and geographic variables."

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