Manors and markets in Rhineland, Westphalia and Lippe, 1650-1850

Project status definitely finished
Project time 01.07.2017- 30.06.2018
Funding source DFG - Individual Grants Programme
Project number PF 351/11-2
Keywords Modern and Current History; Economic and Social History; Agricultural Economics and Sociology

The project analyses grain sales of five to six manors in present-day North Rhine-Westphalia during the period c. 1650-1850. The idea motivating this research is that regional market economies and market societies developed to a substantial part within the framework of the everyday administration of grain stocks of manors, for which grain rents consisted a major source of income. The project pursues four main lines of inquiry: First, it tracks sales volumes and prices, mainly to assess processes of regional market integration. Second, it carries out a micro-analysis of local markets with respect to types of contracts and transaction partners of manors. This is expected to yield information on the evolution of market institutions and the relative importance of local vs. regional networks in the operation of local grain markets. Third, seasonal patterns of grain sales, together with additional information on grain stocks are studied in view of testing whether the use that manors made with their grain income conformed to the model of the rational investor. In addition, information concerning arrears on rents and grain sales to local peasants will be used to explore an alternative paternalist model characterized by interlocking markets and a culture of obligation on the side of elites. Contemporary manuals relating to the manorial economy (mainly so-called Hausväter-Literatur) will be considered as a potential normative background orienting actual behaviour between these two contrasting models. Fourth and finally, the project explores principal-agent issues in the management of grain sales by manors. Since absentee ownership was the rule, day-to-day operations were led by administrators residing on the manor. This implied information asymmetries and created room for opportunistic behaviour on the side of the administrator. Since grain sales had to be ratified by owners, satisfactory resolution of these issues formed a prerequisite for consistent market behaviour of the manor. With respect to method the project rests on essentially two pillars. On the one hand, it develops a relational database of individual grain sales and their attributes, which can then be analysed using statistical tools. On the other hand, the quantitative analysis is supported and extended by a qualitative analysis by protocols, letters etc. concerning the management of grain rents, stocks and sales. The comparison of about half a dozen of manors from different contexts is expected to yield insights concerning the relationships between the evolution of grain markets and regional patterns of development.