A Holy Alliance: Collusion in the Renaissance
Europe Alum Market
Published online: 31 May 2015
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract On June 11, 1470, representatives of Pope Paul II and Ferdinand, King
of Naples concluded a cartel agreement to restrict competition in the sale of alum.
The agreement was one element of a broader plan to monopolize the sale of alum
throughout Christendom. We discuss the background of the cartel agreement and
analyze its terms (which include arrangements to facilitate detection of and reduce
the proﬁtability of defection) and the constraints that limited, but did not eliminate,
Rome’s ability to extract economic proﬁt from the European alum market.
Keywords Cartels Á Collusion Á Alum
JEL Classiﬁcation D43 Á L13 Á L61 Á N53 Á N83
Despite Adam Smith’s much-quoted 1776 dictum that ‘‘People of the same trade
seldom meet together …but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the
public, or in some contrivance to raise prices,’’ it is often held that cartels did not
We thank the Organization and Strategy Department at Maastricht University and the Department of
Economics, Purdue University for ﬁnancial support, and thank anonymous referees, and the Editor for
useful comments. We thank the Purdue University Interlibrary Loan department and Sonya Hymer for
research assistance. Responsibility for errors is our own.
& Stephen Martin
ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, USA
Rev Ind Organ (2015) 47:1–23