History seminars at the IHR

The Economic and Social History of the Early Modern World

Convenors: Julian Hoppit (UCL), Alejandra Irigoin (LSE), Anne Murphy (University of Hertfordshire), David Ormrod (University of Kent) and Nuala Zahedieh (University of Edinburgh)

Venue: Room 209, on the second floor


Time: Friday, 5.15pm

Autumn Term 2014
DateSeminar details
10 October The hearth tax in London between the Great Plague and the Great Fire

Andrew Wareham (Roehampton)

In 1666 Londoners had to deal with the Great Plague and the Great Fire.  Around 6,300 homes were left empty in the spring and the summer, and around 13,000 houses were burnt. As a result the hearth tax was collected from only c. 17,000 out of c. 39,000 properties.  This paper will draw upon the auditors’ account sheets and the London and Middlesex 1666 hearth tax return in order to provide insights into the experiences of the collectors, and some statistical indications of the consequences of the Great Plague and the Great Fire upon Restoration London.


24 October The English East India Company and Bengal Silk Industry in the late Eighteenth Century

Karolina Hutkova (Warwick)

Bengal raw silk attracted the interest of the European trading companies since the seventeenth century. However, the trade in Bengal raw silk was debilitated by the low quality of the silk, which did not allow for its widespread use in the European weaving industry. Driven by the demand for raw silk in Britain, in 1769 the English EIC decided to implement the Piedmontese system of silk reeling in Bengal. Although the Piedmontese system was considered the most advanced in Europe, it did not bring the desired quality improvement. This paper argues that it was the institutional framework of silk production in Bengal that precluded quality improvement.


7 November The Wage of Women in England, 1260-1850

Jane Humphries (Oxford)

This paper presents a wage series for unskilled English women workers from 1260 to 1850 and compares it with existing evidence for men. The series casts light on long run trends in women’s agency and wellbeing, revealing an intractable, indeed widening gap between women and men’s remuneration in the centuries following the Black Death. This informs several recent debates: first whether or not 'the golden age of the English peasantry' included women; and second whether or not industrialization provided women with greater opportunities. The findings have implications for analyses of growth and trends in wellbeing. If the rise in wages that followed the Black Death enticed female servants to delay marriage, it contributed to the formation of the European Marriage Pattern, a demographic regime which positioned England on a path to modern economic growth. If the industrial revolution provided women with improved economic options, their gains should be included in any overall assessment of trends in the standard of living.


21 November The Great Escape? The Contribution of the Empire to Portugal's Economic Growth, 1500-1800

Jaime Reis (Lisbon) & Nuno Palma (LSE)

Newly assembled macroeconomic statistics for early modern Portugal reveal one of Europe’s most vigorous colonial traders and at the same time one of its least successful growth records. Using an estimated dynamic model, we conclude that intercontinental trade had a substantial and increasingly positive impact on economic growth. In the heyday of colonial expansion, eliminating the economic links to empire would have reduced Portugal’s per capita income by at least a fifth. While the empire helped the domestic economy it was not sufficient to annul the tendency towards decline in relation to Europe’s advanced core which set in from the 17th century onwards. We conclude that the explanation for Portugal’s long-term backwardness must be sought primarily in domestic conditions.

The complete paper can be accessed at: http://e-archivo.uc3m.es/bitstream/handle/10016/17891/wp1307.pdf?sequence=1


5 December The Trade of Agricultural Horses in Late Medieval England

Jordan Claridge (UEA)

This paper explores how agricultural horses were produced exchanged in England during the period of c. 1250 – 1349. The diffusion of horse power is recognised to have been a major factor in the commercialisation of the medieval English economy, increasing labour productivity in farming and the efficiency of overland transport, but the infrastructures through which these animals were produced and distributed is poorly understood.  My research explores how the English economy was supplied with horse power during this formative period, illustrating that the breeding, rearing and trading of agricultural horses were major economic activities that crossed virtually all levels of medieval society.