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Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500–1800


  • van Zanden, Jan L.


It is argued that the study of the development of the living standard of large segments of the European population between 1500 and 1800 should make use of the available evidence on prices and wages. On the basis of wage data for about twenty European cities and regions, the geographical patterns in silver and grain wages and their development over time are studied. This leads to the conclusion that there is no clear relationship between economic development (measured for example by the urbanisation ratio) and changes in the standard of living in Europe in this period. This also has implications for the hypothesis that an ‘industrious revolution’ occurred in Western Europe during this period. Alternative explanations for the fact that the per capita consumption of certain market goods increased in this period (such as changes in relative prices and an increase in labour effort as a result of falling real wages) are suggested.

Suggested Citation

  • van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500–1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 175-197, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:3:y:1999:i:02:p:175-197_00

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