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A theory of the pre-modern British aristocracy

  • Allen, Douglas W.

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 46 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 299-313

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:3:p:299-313
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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  1. 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 57-, March.
  2. Douglas W. Allen & Yoram Barzel, 2007. "The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police," Working Papers UWEC-2008-01, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  3. 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, 08.
  4. Edward J Green & Robert H Porter, 1997. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1147, David K. Levine.
  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 271-91, April.
  6. Yoram Barzel, 2000. "Property rights and the evolution of the state," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 25-51, 03.
  7. 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.
  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. Mailath, George J. & Samuelson, Larry, 2006. "Repeated Games and Reputations: Long-Run Relationships," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195300796, March.
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