What is barbarism? And even more important, what is civilisation? I define civilisation in terms of freedom:  a civilised society is one that allows a considerable degree of personal freedom that enables its citizens to ‘do their own thing’. I look therefore at economics, and see how societies work: is the state the all encompassing provider; are you able to earn one’s own substance and follow one’s own choices?  And what difference does money make in this? What is the role of money?

This essay pursues two parallel paths. First we look at society and how it is organised: I looked at the classic anthropological distinctions between kinship societies and the more modern ‘open’ societies and ask as an archaeologist whether we can distinguish these different forms of society on the ground. And then I look at economics, and see how pre-money societies work and explore whether the advent of money brings about a different, more open form of  society.

We begin therefore by looking at some of the primitive pre-market societies and see how they work. I then look at some of the greater pre-market societies, Egypt and Minoan Crete to see how they worked without money. And then we move on to Greece and Rome, the first money/market societies and see how they worked and whether there is any difference between them and their predecessors.

These questions  are often asked concerning the rise of our modern economies, and it is assumed that  these innovations first took place in Western Europe from the  sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards: I am arguing here that many of these  changes first took  place in Greece and  Rome, and that we should take a fresh look at the classical civilizations – and their importance -  by looking at their underlying money/market economies.

These webpages are an introduction to the story, a  book that is in process of being written.  New chapters are constantly being added, and existing ones are constantly being updated.  It is proving to be an interesting, albeit controversial enquiry,  and I believe that in the course of it, I ask important questions and I am finding interesting answers – answers which do not always agree with my preconceptions. Whether you believe in my theories is unimportant: the enquiry in itself is worth pursuing. This is history for the 21st century. Read on!

Andrew Selkirk

Editor-in-chief,  Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology

Let us start by seeing how primitive societies work

Alternatively jump to the end and start by reading my conclusions.

Or even jump to my ‘confessions’ to find out who I am and how I came to the philosophies that underlie this book.

13th January, 2013