Scheidel's research ranges from ancient social and economic history and premodern historical demography to the comparative and transdisciplinary world history of inequality, state formation, and human welfare. He is particularly interested in connecting the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences.
The second most frequently cited Roman historian in an active faculty position in the Western Hemisphere, Scheidel is the author or (co-)editor of 20 books, has published well over 200 articles, chapters, and reviews, and has lectured in 28 countries. His most recent books are Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (2019), The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate, and the Future of the Past (2018, ed.), The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (2017; 12 translation contracts), On Human Bondage: After Slavery and Social Death (2017, co-edited with John Bodel), State Power in Ancient China and Rome(2015, ed.), and Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States (2015, co-edited with Andrew Monson). Other key publications include Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (2009, ed.), The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World (2007, co-edited with Ian Morris and Richard Saller), and Death on the Nile: Disease and the Demography of Roman Egypt (2001).
Scheidel recently completed The Oxford World History of Empire (2 vols., co-edited with Peter Bang and the late Christopher Bayly). He is currently working on the Roman monarchy in global comparative context and on monogamy and polygyny, and is planning a book on how modernizing developmental discontinuities have come to enrich, divide and threaten humankind. He 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 an editor of the monograph series Oxford Studies in Early Empires and a former editor of the journal Historia. He was awarded a New Directions Fellowship by the Mellon Foundation and a Guggenheim fellowship, and is a Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.