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Jean-Laurent Rosenthal

Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics; Ronald and Maxine Linde Leadership Chair, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Jean-Laurent Rosenthal headshot
Contact information for Jean-Laurent Rosenthal
Contact Method Value
Mail Code: MC 228-77
Office: 225A Baxter Hall (77)
Phone: 626-395-4058
Administrative Assistant:
B.A., Reed College, 1984; Ph.D., Caltech, 1988. Professor of Economics, 2006-2008; Axline Professor of Business Economics, 2008-; Executive Officer, 2007-13; Division Chair, 2014-; Linde Leadership Chair, 2016-.

Research Interests

Economic History; Game Theory; Corporate Governance


Business, Economics and Management; Economic History; Social Science History


Jean-Laurent Rosenthal is trying to understand what institutions encourage long-term economic growth and wealth formation. He studies the organization of credit markets and the evolution of inequality and its consequences for welfare. He has investigated changes in property rights during the French Revolution and the law and organization of enterprises in France, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Specifically, he has analyzed credit markets in France between 1660 and 1900 with Philip T. Hoffman of Caltech and Gilles Postel-Vinay, tracking the growth of mortgage markets over two centuries first in Paris and later throughout France. They are also working on a large-scale data project to document the evolution of wealth distribution in Paris from 1800 to the present, having collected data on 600,000 Parisians. Rosenthal is working with Timothy Guinnane, Ron Harris, and Naomi Lamoreaux to evaluate how law and enterprises co-evolved in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, focusing on how entrepreneurs might have structured their firms to mitigate the costs of untimely dissolution or minority oppression. Rosenthal is also interested in determining why inequality in life expectancy in Paris and France declined much faster than wealth inequality in the six decades after the 1860s.

Rosenthal has written six books and numerous articles and reviews. His book Priceless Markets: The Political Economy of Credit in Paris, 1660–1870, coauthored with Philip Hoffman and Gilles Postel-Vinay, received the Gyorgy Ranki Biennial Prize from the Economic History Association in 2001. His dissertation, which focused on why infrastructure investment was difficult under the old regime in France but was relatively easy after 1815, received the Alexander Gerschenkron Prize from the Economic History Association in 1989 and the Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize from Caltech in 1988. Rosenthal was awarded the Arthur H. Cole Prize for best article in the Journal of Economic History in 1991. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2001–2002), a Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Fellowship (1993–1994), a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award (1992), and an Alfred P. Sloan Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (1987–1988). He is the co-editor of the Journal of Economic History and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals.

He was a visiting professor at the Paris School of Economics in 2006–2007 and the fall of 2008 and was a member of the faculty at UCLA between 1988 and 2006. He was also a visiting associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, in 1995 and a visiting assistant professor at Yale University in 1992.