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The Great Moderation of Grain Price Volatility: Market Integration vs. Climate Change, Germany, 1650–1790


  • Hakon Albers

    (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Department of Economics)

  • Ulrich Pfister

    (University of Münster, Institute of Economic and Social History)

  • Martin Uebele


In Malthusian economies, crop shortages could be a matter of life and death. The development of regional and national markets for grain held the potential to provide insurance against the demographic consequences of local crop failure. Weather shocks that are reflected in price data, however, entail a measurement problem for market integration studies, which we solve against the background of the end of the Little Ice Age. We exemplify our method to measure price convergence and the link from grain prices to mortality for Germany based on a new data set of rye prices for 15 cities in 1650–1790. We find price convergence in North-Western Germany as well as along major rivers. In addition, a substantial moderation of aggregate rye price volatility occurred, which we link theoretically to increased arbitrage. Mortality was positively related to the aggregate rye price and thus, the decline of rye price volatility decreased the risk to die of hunger in pre-industrial Germany.

Suggested Citation

  • Hakon Albers & Ulrich Pfister & Martin Uebele, 2018. "The Great Moderation of Grain Price Volatility: Market Integration vs. Climate Change, Germany, 1650–1790," Working Papers 0135, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0135

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    Cited by:

    1. Federico, Giovanni & Schulze, Max-Stephan & Volckart, Oliver, 2021. "European Goods Market Integration in the Very Long Run: From the Black Death to the First World War," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 276-308, March.
    2. Ulrich Pfister & Jana Riedel & Martin Uebele, 2012. "Real Wages and the Origins of Modern Economic Growth in Germany, 16th to 19th Centuries," Working Papers 0017, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    3. Greif, Gavin, 2022. "Merchants, proto-firms, and the German industrialization: the commercial determinants of nineteenth century town growth," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 113346, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Ulrich Pfister & Georg Fertig, 2020. "From Malthusian Disequilibrium to the Post-Malthusian Era: The Evolution of the Preventive and Positive Checks in Germany, 1730–1870," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(3), pages 1145-1170, June.

    More about this item


    Market integration; price volatility; agriculture; weather; climate; unified growth theory.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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