Why sharecropping? : explaining its presence and absence in Europe's vineyards, 1750-1950
The traditional view that sharecropping was a cause of low productivity in European agriculture prior to the Second World War has been challenged by economic historians, and today the contact is often considered as efficient at reducing the monitoring costs associated with labour and allocation of risk between landowners and farmers, especially when capital markets were weak for working capital. Yet if sharecropping was a relatively efficient contract, why was it not found more often? This paper looks at the vine, a crop that was widespread in Europe and that has been central to the current debates. It argues that while the literature has been right to emphasise the importance of the high monitoring costs, it has ignored the equally important costs associated with dividing the harvest. These were sufficiently large to make the contract unattractive, except in the few cases where the landowner was prepared to be actively involved in wine making and its sale, such as was found in Beaujolais or Tuscany.
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