Does a Wealth of Natural Resources Bring a Curse of Poverty? Ask the Ancients

The Yale Department of Classics will host a talk and symposium Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 16 and 17, that mines ancient history to understand a paradox that has long intrigued economists: the countries richest in natural resources are the poorest in wealth.

On Tuesday, Stephen Haber, the A.A. and Jeanne Welch Milligan Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, will deliver the third annual Michael I. Rostovtzeff Lecture, titled “Natural Resources and the Institutions of Governance: Evidence from the Ancient and Modern World” at 5 p.m. in Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street. The lecture will be followed by a brief response from Naomi Lamoreaux, professor of history and economics at Yale. The talk is free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, a symposium titled “The Resource Curse in Historical Perspective” will take place in Phelps Hall, 344 College St., Room 401 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Speakers include: Alain Bresson (University of Chicago), John Haldon (Princeton University), R. Bruce Hitchner (Tufts University) and Walter Scheidel (Stanford University) as well as Yale faculty experts Fabian Drixler, Timothy Guinanne, J.G. Manning and Peter Perdue.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please contact Nancy Genga at to register.

The annual lecture series is named in honor of Sterling Professor Michael I. Rostovtzeff (1870–1952) who taught at Yale from 1925 until his retirement in 1944. Rostovtzeff also served as president of the American Historical Association in 1935–1936. Described as a titan of ancient history and one of the greats of 20th-century historical scholarship, Rostovtzeff was a world authority on Hellenistic and Roman history. His widow, née Sophie M. Kulezycki, bequeathed a generous sum to the Department of Classics for the promotion of research in archaeology and ancient history. Part of this fund is used to support the visit of a leading figure in ancient history each year around Rostovtzeff’s birthday in November.

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Dorie Baker:, 203-432-1345