Scheidel's research focuses on ancient social and economic history, with particular emphasis on historical demography, labor, and state formation. More generally, he is interested in comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to the study of the premodern world, and is trying to build bridges between the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences.
The most frequently cited active-duty Roman historian in the Western Hemisphere adjusted for age, Scheidel is the author or (co-)editor of 15 books, has published over 200 articles, chapters, and reviews, and has lectured in 23 countries. His most recent books are State Power in Ancient China and Rome(2015, ed.), Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States (2015, co-edited with Andrew Monson), The Oxford Handbook of the State in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean (2013, co-edited with Peter Bang), The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy (2012, ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies (2010, co-edited with Alessandro Barchiesi), Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (2009, ed.), The Dynamics of Ancient Empires (2009, co-edited with Ian Morris), and The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World (2007, co-edited with Ian Morris and Richard Saller). Scheidel is completing a monograph on the global history of income and wealth inequality and preparing a general survey of ancient demography and a short book on the long-term benefits of the fall of the Roman empire, and is editing The Science of Roman History and co-editing The Oxford World History of Empire (2 vols., with Peter Bang and Christopher Bayly †) and On human bondage: after slavery and social death (with John Bodel). He has launched an international research initiative for the comparative study of ancient Mediterranean and Chinese empires, co-founded the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, created the interactive web site Orbis: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, which has received over a million visits and attracted global media coverage, and is co-editor of the journal Historia and the monograph series Oxford Studies in Early Empires. He has been awarded a New Directions Fellowship of the Mellon Foundation and a Guggenheim fellowship, and is a Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.