By Maarten Prak

Maarten Prak (ed.)

This quantity takes inventory of contemporary examine on financial progress, in addition to the improvement of capital and labour markets, through the centuries that preceded the economic Revolution. The booklet underlines the variety within the monetary reports of early glossy Europeans and indicates how this sort should be the basis of a brand new belief of financial and social switch.

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Sample text

They have focused in particular on the apparent increase in the volatility of grain prices on urban markets (rural prices being generally unknown), which they take as evidence of worsening harvests and of the increased liability of the urban poor to death by hunger. Both inferences are open to question. Price volatility is strictly speaking a function of the efficiency of urban supply structures rather than of the volatility of the neighbouring harvest. The two will only coincide if output is subject to identical shocks across a town’s entire supply region, so the town is unable to compensate for declining output in one part of the supply area by importing food from elsewhere (if compensatory flows do arise, prices on the urban market will increase only by the difference in transport costs between the two locations).

Based on practical technical knowledge that was available from the thirteenth century or before. By the 1320s Norfolk and Kentish peasants had achieved levels of land productivity that were reached again only in the eighteenth century (Campbell and Overton 1993; Campbell 1995:555). 25 per cent per annum thanks to investments in drainage, reorganization of plots, the planting of higher value crops, and improvements in transport and distribution, that required no major technical change; these gains were associated with a rough doubling of the total population and a tripling of the proportion of urban residents in the region.

What these estimates did not do was to measure changes in output per unit of land and labour, and in the return to investment. Neo-Malthusian pessimists also took the lack of major crop and machine innovations between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries as evidence that productivity was stagnant. However, recent more sophisticated measurements of output and capital efficiency have substantially raised earlier estimates, and have gone on to suggest that the lack of major technical change before 1750 was not a significant constraint upon output at the prevailing levels of population.

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