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The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries

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  • Leander Heldring
  • James A. Robinson
  • Sebastian Vollmer

Abstract

We examine the long-run economic impact of the Dissolution of the English monasteries in 1535, during the Reformation. Since monastic lands were previously not marketed and relatively unencumbered by inefficient types of customary tenures linked to feudalism, the Dissolution provides variation in the longevity of feudal institutions, which is plausibly linked to labor and social mobility, the productivity of agriculture and ultimately the location of the Industrial Revolution. We show that parishes impacted by the Dissolution subsequently had a greater share of the population working outside of agriculture, experienced higher innovation and yields in agriculture, a 'rise of the Gentry', and eventually higher levels of industrialization. Our results are consistent with explanations of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions which emphasize the commercialization of society as a key pre-condition for taking advantage of technological change and new economic opportunities.

Suggested Citation

  • Leander Heldring & James A. Robinson & Sebastian Vollmer, 2015. "The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries," NBER Working Papers 21450, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21450
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    Cited by:

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    3. Finley, Theresa & Franck, Raphaël & Johnson, Noel, 2020. "The Effects of Land Redistribution: Evidence from the French Revolution," CEPR Discussion Papers 14522, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Cantoni, Davide & Dittmar, Jeremiah E. & Yuchtman, Noam, 2017. "Reallocation and secularization: the economic consequences of the Protestant Reformation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 83617, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment

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