Slavery and Information

36 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2011 Last revised: 11 Feb 2013

Date Written: September 26, 2011


This article shows how asymmetric information shaped slavery by determining the likelihood of manumission. A theoretical model explains how the master’s decision to free (or, more generally, to reward) a slave was motivated by the need to provide incentives for slaves working in occupations characterized by a high degree of asymmetric information. The model’s implications are then tested against the available evidence:both in Rome and in the Atlantic world, slaves with high-asymmetric-information tasks had greater chances of manumission. The analysis also sheds light on the master’s choices of carrots versus sticks and of labor versus slavery.

Keywords: slavery, manumission, carrot, stick

JEL Classification: K00, N00

Suggested Citation

Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe, Slavery and Information (September 26, 2011). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-33; Journal of Economic History 2013; Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2011-33; Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2011-11. Available at SSRN: or

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States


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