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Chapter Three. Rural Economy and Society

Markus Cerman

Subject History » Economic History, Social History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics rural

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405139472.2008.00005.x


Despite considerable progress in comparative approaches in early modern economic and social history of rural societies, research remains constricted by a narrow range of theoretical categories. The influence of “grand narratives” of European history remains powerful even today, attributing “progress” and “modernity” to some and “backwardness” and “traditionalism” to other institutional arrangements governing rural societies. There are numerous definitions of the term “peasant” and the notion of a “peasantry” in history and the social sciences. Generally, peasants are understood as owner-occupiers working on their farms primarily with their families. However, there is little agreement whether this term is adequate to encompass the wide varieties in specific situations across eighteenth-century Europe. A historian of rural England or certain areas of the Netherlands might object to this term for (tenant) farmers of these countries, who are usually conceived as promoting specialization and agrarian capitalism ( de Vries and van der Woude, 1997 : 202–4, 207; Hoppenbrouwers and van Zanden, 2001 ). Furthermore, can the same term be applied to such a diverse group as the large, progressive farms of the German northwest or the Paris Basin, the tenant farmers of former seigneurial demesnes in the German east, as well as small-scale agricultural producers with precarious property rights ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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