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Kings and Vikings: On the Dynamics of Competitive Agglomeration

Kings and Vikings: On the Dynamics of Competitive Agglomeration

Kings and Vikings: On the Dynamics of Competitive Agglomeration

Matthew J. Baker and Erwin H. Bulte

Economics of Governance, Vol. 11:3 (2010)

Abstract: This paper studies the Viking age – the roughly 300 year period beginning in 800 AD – from the perspective of the economics of conflict. The Viking age is interesting because throughout the time period, the scale of conflict increased – small scale raiding behaviour eventually evolved into large scale clashes between armies.

With this observation in mind, we present a theoretical model describing the incentives both the defending population and the invading population had to agglomerate into larger groups to better defend against attacks, and engage in attacks, respectively. The result is what might be called a theory of competitive agglomeration. We also apply our model in assessing the factors behind the onset of Vikings raids at the end of the 8th century.

Introduction: Since the early 1990s an important literature on the causes and intensity of conflict has emerged. Initiated by seminal work of Hirshleifer and Grossman, several analysts have considered how rational (albeit myopic) agents allocate their endowments across productive and appropriative activities to maximize their payoffs. Since conflict, in various forms, has played a major role throughout human history – shaping the development trajectory of civilization – improving our understanding of the nature of conflict appears extremely useful.


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