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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The main developments in western European agrarian society and economy are surveyed at the outset in a regional analysis which stresses the degree of variety within quite small areas and by the same token the irrelevance of national boundaries. The survey considers employment and production beyond tillage and pastoralism: fishing, hunting, mining, or local crafts and manufacturing are treated as part of the rural economy. There follows a detailed thematic analysis which examines crop yields, credit, share-cropping, landholding, labour, and total factor productivity. The conclusion briefly takes up the debate over the transition from feudalism to capitalism, initiated by Robert Brenner, to argue that the regional variations in landholding and inheritance practices which might emerge from an initially similar environment, while casting doubt on aspects of Brenner’s general thesis, nevertheless were shaped as much by power or class relations as by natural endowment, ecology, or technological innovations.

Keywords: Regional variety, agricultural diversity, crop yields, credit markets, labour markets, share-cropping, Brenner debate

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