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Rural Westphalia Research Group: Family, Economic, and Agrarian History of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Since 1997, we study the economic and social history of Westphalian communities and regions during a phase of agrarian economic growth, protoindustrial expansion and decline, population increase and institutional change before the formation of the modern industrial society.

The research group was founded by Georg Fertig. It encompasses several projects funded by the DFG (German Research Community) with grants obtained by Ulrich Pfister. It is open for colleagues and students who want to use its data bases for their diplomas, dissertations, or other scientific projects, and who are willing to integrate their own data into our data base.

The research group emphasizes the unity of the discipline economic and social history. We see households and families as economic actors. The comparative advantage of economic and social historians is to study societies, in which markets have not yet been as developed as they are today.

In our research, we use a wide array of methods: qualitative, anthropologic, demographic, legal history, and cliometrics. Our most important resources are relational data bases for several Westphalian parishes. In these data bases, information about individuals, estates, treaties, inventories, social relationships, and other issues is not only collected but also systematically linked.

One of the group's hallmarks is the way in which we gather information from historical sources. We do not follow the mainstream of source oriented historical computing in that the data bases are not constructed to represent the sources, but to make propositions or statements about the world that is represented in the sources. Thus, the data bases are "meta-sources". This means that just as in historical sources we can read propositions about the world, so there are propositions about the world in the "meta-sources" we derive from historical sources. Linking records in relational data bases would be impossible, if there was not someone stating which person (or other entity) in one source is identical to which person (or other entity) in another source. In order to make the decision on how to link the data, we use input from genealogists (local family reconstitutions) as well as the informed judgement of our student assistants. Hence, the group offers students a training in self-responsible scientific research on a level not usual in university projects.


Johannes Bracht
Christine Fertig
Georg Fertig
Silke Goslar
Markus Küpker
Volker Lünnemann
Ulrich Pfister

External member:

Michael Kopsidis

Partners in cooperation and discussion:

Jörg Baten
Stefan Brakensiek
Véronique Fillieux
Patrick Galloway ( The UC Prussia Project)
Carola Lipp
Miko?aj Szo?tysek
Paolo Tedeschi

Projects of the research group:

DFG-Project: Demographic change, market development, and regional specialization in Westphalia, 1750-1850: a short and preliminary project description
(Management: Ulrich Pfister, Editior: Georg Fertig)

final report (german)
material overview (german)
project description for AKA-Newsletter (7.12.2003)
Michael Kopsidis: Labour productivity and market integration in Westphalian peasant agriculture 1830-1880: from Boserup to Smith? (text in preparation)

DFG-Project: Rural factor markets, institutional change and family strategies in westphalia in the 19th century
(Management: Ulrich Pfister, Editor: Georg Fertig)

project description (german)
final report (german)
project description for AKA-Newsletter (german)

DFG-Project: Transfer of peasant property: Westphalia in the 19th century
(Management: Ulrich Pfister and Georg Fertig, Editior: Volker Lünnemann)

DFG-Project: Social Networks in Westphalia in the 19th Century
(Management: Ulrich Pfister, Editiors: Christine Fertig and Johannes Bracht)

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