Price and Value in Scholastic Thought: 1300–1600

  • Barry Gordon


Aquinas’ remarks on the just price and his related observations on the question of value determination were made against a background of economic growth and increasing prosperity in many areas of Europe. In general, he found that the just price was the prevailing free-market price and that the value of a commodity was governed by its usefulness as a means of satisfying human need. However, events were soon to lead some of his scholastic successors to begin questioning the adequacy of these findings. The initial problem seems to have been rising food prices. David Herlihy writes:

By the late thirteenth century, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the swollen size of urban populations, the larger towns could no longer rely exclusively on the free market to assure the abundant and cheap supplies of grain their citizens needed. By a variety of measures, ranging from simple embargoes on grain export to the creation of grain-purchasing monopolies with power to fix the price of locally produced grain, the larger towns had assumed responsibility for keeping the price of grain at a level even their poorest citizens could afford.1


Price Determination Fourteenth Century Price Fixation Labour Theory Noonan State 
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  1. 1.
    David Herlihy, report of comments on a paper given by Raymond de Roover, in Journal of Economic History Vol. 18 (Dec 1958) pp. 487–8.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo (II): Science in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times (London, Heinemann, 1961) pp. 45–6, 66 et seq., 152 et seq.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Cf., Emil Kauder, A History of Marginal Utility Theory ( Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1965 ) pp. 18–19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleAustralia

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