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Choices and Constraints in the Pre-Industrial Countryside

This paper explores a key implication of Richard Smith's work on agrarian societies: the need to be attentive both to rural people's decisions as economic agents and to the constraints on their choices. It begins by examining evidence of goal-maximizing behaviour by rural people – not just peasant farmers but women, servants, serfs, landless workers, youths, and many others – in a diversity of pre-industrial societies. It then analyses some central constraints within which rural people made their choices: family and inheritance systems, village communities, manorial systems, legal rules and customs, and the actions of rulers. It concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding the functioning of rural economies, now widely recognized as central to long-term improvements in economic growth and human well-being.

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File URL: http://www.econsoc.hist.cam.ac.uk/docs/CWPESH%20number%201%20March%202012.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge in its series Working Papers with number 1.

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Length: 18,987 words
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2012
Date of revision: 01 Jan 2012
Handle: RePEc:cmh:wpaper:03
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econsoc.hist.cam.ac.uk/

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  1. Van Zanden, Jan Luiten & Prak, Maarten, 2006. "Towards an economic interpretation of citizenship: The Dutch Republic between medieval communes and modern nation-states," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 111-145, August.
  2. BAS J. P. van BAVEL & JAN LUITEN van ZANDEN, 2004. "The jump-start of the Holland economy during the late-medieval crisis, c.1350-c.1500 -super-1 ," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 57(3), pages 503-532, 08.
  3. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2007. "'Whatever is, is right'? Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(4), pages 649-684, November.
  4. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Edwards, Jeremy, 2000. "Women and the “Second Serfdom”: Evidence from Early Modern Bohemia," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(04), pages 961-994, December.
  5. T. K. Dennison & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2007. "Serfdom and social capital in Bohemia and Russia -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(3), pages 513-544, 08.
  6. 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(02), pages 175-197, August.
  7. Bruce M. S. Campbell, 2010. "Nature as historical protagonist: environment and society in pre-industrial England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 281-314, 05.
  8. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  9. Tine De Moor & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2010. "Girl power: the European marriage pattern and labour markets in the North Sea region in the late medieval and early modern period -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(1), pages 1-33, 02.
  10. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2001. "The Economic World of the Bohemian Serf: Economic Concepts, Preferences, and Constraints on the Estate of Friedland, 1583–1692[I should l]," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 54(3), pages 430-453, 08.
  11. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Küpker, Markus & Maegraith, Janine, 2012. "Household Debt in Early Modern Germany: Evidence from Personal Inventories," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 134-167, March.
  12. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521194488 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & La Porta, Rafael & Shleifer, Andrei, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Scholarly Articles 2962610, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Volckart Oliver, 2004. "Die Dorfgemeinde als Kartell: Kooperationsprobleme und ihre Lösungen im Mittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit," Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook, De Gruyter, vol. 45(2), pages 189-204, December.
  15. Robert C. Allen, 1999. "Tracking the agricultural revolution in England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 52(2), pages 209-235, 05.
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