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The long march of history: Farm wages, population, and economic growth, England 1209–18691




The article forms three series for English farm workers from 1209–1869: nominal day wages, the implied marginal product of a day of farm labour, and the purchasing power of a day’s wage in terms of farm workers’ consumption. These series suggest that labour productivity in English agriculture was already high in the middle ages. Furthermore, they fit well with one method of estimating medieval population that suggests a peak English population c.1300 of nearly 6 million. Lastly, they imply that both agricultural technology and the general efficiency of the economy were static from 1250 till 1600. Economic changes were in these years entirely a product of demographic shifts. From 1600 to 1800, technological advance in agriculture provided an alternative source of dynamism in the English economy.

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  • Gregory Clark, 2007. "The long march of history: Farm wages, population, and economic growth, England 1209–18691," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(1), pages 97-135, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:60:y:2007:i:1:p:97-135
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2006.00358.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Davenport, Frances Gardiner, 1906. "The Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor 1086-1565," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number davenport1906.
    2. Z. Razi, 1996. "Manorial court rolls and local population: an East Anglian case study," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 49(4), pages 758-763, November.
    3. Unknown, 2005. "Agriculture In Transition," Economics of Agriculture, Institute of Agricultural Economics, vol. 52(1).
    4. John Munro, 2002. "Postan, Population, and Prices in Late-Medieval England and Flanders," Working Papers munro-02-04, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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