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The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets$
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Keith Roberts

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153270

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153270.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

The Beginning

The Beginning

(p.9) 1 The Beginning
The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets

Keith Roberts

Columbia University Press

This chapter argues that before societies organized on a scale larger than the tribe, living conditions and human mentality did not conceive of profits. People had little material wealth or desire for gain, and their sense of time made calculation difficult. The possibility of profit first emerged in the organized irrigation societies of Egypt and southern Mesopotamia, an area known as Sumeria whose natural endowments made trade important. Their leaders began to accumulate material wealth. Traders could then earn profits, perhaps most often from buying and selling slaves, and use the profits for their own benefit. Other opportunities for profit, such as crop loans, shipping, and retailing followed. Over the next thousand or so years, culminating in the reign of Babylonia's King Hammurabi, most key business developments followed improvements in government. Another key development was the invention, discovery, or creation of tools that would be essential to business becoming a common and competent activity: calculation, writing, forecasting, and legal systems.

Keywords:   business, economic transactions, profits, cities, Sumeria, merchants, calculation, forecasting, legal systems

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