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Choices and Constraints in the Pre-Industrial Countryside

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2012. "Choices and Constraints in the Pre-Industrial Countryside," Working Papers 1, Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge, revised 01 Jan 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:cmh:wpaper:03
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    File URL: http://www.econsoc.hist.cam.ac.uk/docs/CWPESH%20number%201%20March%202012.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Klein & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2016. "Occupational structure in the Czech lands under the second serfdom," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(2), pages 493-521, May.
    2. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513 Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    peasant; economic rationality; family; community; serfdom; government;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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