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A theory of the pre-modern British aristocracy

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  • Allen, Douglas W.

Abstract

Between c. 1550 -c. 1880, a small group of individuals ruled England and oversaw her transformation from a small country to the British Empire--and in the process they became exceedingly wealthy. Known as aristocrats, their unusual lifestyles were the antithesis of modern secular values. Today aristocrats are often viewed as a hindrance to pre-modern growth and development because they appeared to operate so inefficiently. This paper argues that the aristocrats efficiently provided the valuable service of "trustworthy servant", by investing their wealth in hostage capital. This theory explains terms of entry and exit out of the aristocracy, the strict family settlement, their education patterns, extravagant lifestyle, and their ultimate voluntary retreat from power.

Suggested Citation

  • Allen, Douglas W., 2009. "A theory of the pre-modern British aristocracy," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 299-313, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:3:p:299-313
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    2. Douglas W. Allen, 2005. "Purchase, Patronage, and Professions: Incentives and the Evolution of Public Office in Pre-Modern Britain," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(1), pages 1-57, March.
    3. Douglas W. Allen & Clyde G. Reed, 2006. "The Duel of Honor: Screening For Unobservable Social Capital," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 81-115.
    4. Douglas W. Allen & Yoram Barzel, 2007. "The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police," Working Papers UWEC-2008-01, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
    5. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-291, April.
    6. Yoram Barzel, 2000. "Property rights and the evolution of the state," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 25-51, March.
    7. Mailath, George J. & Samuelson, Larry, 2006. "Repeated Games and Reputations: Long-Run Relationships," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195300796.
    8. Allen, Douglas W., 2002. "The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 204-231, April.
    9. Lloyd Bonfield, 1986. "Affective Families, Open Elites and Strict Family Settlements in Early Modern England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 39(3), pages 341-354, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2015. "Who financed the expansion of the equity market? Shareholder clienteles in Victorian Britain," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.

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