Walter Scheidel

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Walter Scheidel
Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg
Scheidel at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in 2012 (age 46)
Born (1966-07-09) 9 July 1966 (age 55)
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University

Walter Scheidel (born 9 July 1966) is an Austrian historian who teaches ancient history at Stanford University, California. Scheidel's main research interests are ancient social and economic history, pre-modern historical demography, and comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to world history.[1]


Scheidel has published five academic monographs and over 200 papers and reviews, and has edited or co-edited fifteen other books. He is co-editor of a monograph series for Oxford University Press and was co-founder of the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics,[2] the world's first online repository for working papers in that field.[3]


In May 2012, Scheidel and Elijah Meeks launched the interactive site "ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World".[4]


  • Grundpacht und Lohnarbeit in der Landwirtschaft des römischen Italien, Frankfurt: Lang, 1994, ISBN 3-631-47904-2
  • Measuring Sex, Age and Death in the Roman Empire: Explorations in Ancient Demography, Ann Arbor: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1996, ISBN 1-887829-21-0
  • Debating Roman Demography, Leiden: Brill, 2001 (editor), ISBN 90-04-11525-0
  • Death on the Nile: Disease and the Demography of Roman Egypt, Leiden: Brill, 2001, ISBN 90-04-12323-7
  • Ostrakismos-Testimonien I: Die Zeugnisse antiker Autoren, der Inschriften und Ostraka über das athenische Scherbengericht aus vorhellenistischer Zeit (487–322 v. Chr.), Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag Stuttgart, 2002 (co-editor), ISBN 3-515-07947-5
  • The Ancient Economy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, and New York: Routledge, 2002 (co-editor), ISBN 0-7486-1322-6
  • The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 (co-editor), ISBN 978-0-521-78053-7
  • The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 (co-editor), ISBN 978-0-19-537158-1
  • Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 (editor), ISBN 978-0-19-533690-0
  • The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010 (co-editor), ISBN 978-0-19-921152-4
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012 (editor), ISBN 978-0-521-89822-5
  • The Oxford Handbook of the State in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013 (co-editor), ISBN 978-0-19-518831-8
  • State Power in Ancient China and Rome, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015 (editor), ISBN 978-0-19-020224-8
  • Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015 (co-editor), ISBN 978-1-107-08920-4
  • On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017 (co-editor), ISBN 978-1-119-16248-3
  • The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-691-16502-8
  • The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate, and the Future of the Past, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018 (editor), ISBN 978-0-691-16256-0
  • Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019, ISBN 978-0-691-17218-7
  • The Oxford World History of Empire, New York: Oxford University Press, 2021 (co-editor), ISBN 978-0-197-53397-0


The Great Leveler was shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize 2017[5] and for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2017.[6] One of the Economist’s Books of the Year 2017,[7] it was selected by Martin Wolf as his Financial Times Summer Book of 2017.[8] William Easterly wrote in a review of The Great Leveler, which argues that violence is the main contributor to declines in inequality, that "the great virtue of the book is to present a lot of evidence on both sides for the readers to judge the thesis for themselves."[9]

The Financial Times[10] and the Evening Standard[11] named Escape from Rome one of their best books of 2019. In his review, Robert Colvile noted that although “Scheidel has to do an awful lot of heavy lifting” in his book, it “is a measure of Scheidel’s talent and dedication that, by and large, he succeeds.”[12] Escape From Rome was panned by fellow historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto who accuses Scheidel of wholesale oversimplification, "cutting through the chaos of real life and dismissing its messiness."[13] Professor Paolo Tedesco of the University of Tübingen, reviewing the book, described it as "stimulating [and] thought provoking", although he considered that its historical arguments were not convincing.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Personal website at Department of Classics, Stanford University
  2. ^ Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics
  3. ^ Ober, Josiah; Scheidel, Walter; Shaw, Brent D.; Sanclemente, Donna (2007). "Toward Open Access in Ancient Studies: The Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics". Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. 76 (1): 229–242. doi:10.2972/hesp.76.1.229. ISSN 0018-098X. JSTOR 25068017.
  4. ^ ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World
  5. ^ “The Cundill History Prize”
  6. ^ "Best Business Books: 2017". Financial Times. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  7. ^ "Books of the Year 2017". Economist. 2021-12-09. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  8. ^ "The FT on books to read this summer". Financial Times. 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  9. ^ Easterly, William (2019). "Review of Walter Scheidel's The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century". Journal of Economic Literature. 57 (4): 955–971. doi:10.1257/jel.20191477. ISSN 0022-0515.
  10. ^ "Best books of 2019: Economics". Financial Times. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  11. ^ "The best books of 2019". Evening Standard. 2019-12-23. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  12. ^ Colvile, Robert (2019-10-18). "Escape from Rome by Walter Scheidel Review – How Rome's Fall Supercharged the West". Sunday Times. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  13. ^ Fernández-Armesto, Felipe (2019-10-23). "'Escape From Rome' Review: Charging Ahead". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  14. ^ Tedesco, Paolo (2021-02-25). "The Roman Road to Capitalism and the Rise of the West". Jacobin. Retrieved 2021-02-26.

External links[edit]