Economic Crisis, Manorialism, and Demographic Response: Southern Sweden in the Preindustrial Period
Previous research has consistently found demographic responses to grain price fluctuations in preindustrial Europe, both at macro and micro level. Grain prices serve as a summary measure of the workings of the preindustrial economy, reflecting not only local harvest conditions but trade patterns and market integration. All over preindustrial Europe the manorial estate was an important institution in the rural economy. It offered opportunities to insure tenants against extreme events such as harvest failures, impossible to achieve for independent peasants in a society without well-functioning markets for capital or insurance, and in the absence of state subsidies. In this paper we look at the impact of regional economic fluctuations on demographic behavior and study whether the presence of estates lowered the demographic impact of economic crises on the population. We will do this by utilizing a newly developed database on agrarian output together with county-level grain price data and parish level information on vital events and land tenure for about 400 parishes in the province of Scania in southern Sweden. The results show a clear response in births and deaths in ages 1-25 to fluctuations in grain prices and output levels. Manorial parishes show a considerably lower response in the year of the economic change, but the same response as in other parishes in the year after. This indicates that the manors, at least partially, functioned as insurers against risk, which had beneficial effects of its inhabitants by smoothing consumption.
- Economic History
IUSSP seminar “Demographic Responses to Sudden Economic and Environmental Change"