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: John S Cohen Room 203, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House


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.


Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
16 January Occupational Structure under the Second Serfdom: Evidence from Early Modern Bohemia

Sheilagh Ogilvie (University of Cambridge), co-authored with Alexander Klein (University of Kent)

Changes in occupational structure are widely regarded as a key component of the early modern ‘Little Divergence’ between the economies of northwest Europe and those of the east and south. But we still know little about this development in an important group of early modern economies – those subject to the huge growth of landlords’ institutional powers under the ‘second serfdom’. This paper examines this question for Bohemia (the modern Czech Republic) using data on 6,983 villages in 1654. Non-agricultural activity was lower than in western Europe, but varied substantially across Bohemian communities, and was significantly associated with variations in social, economic and demographic characteristics of both villages and feudal estates. It also manifested a complicated relationship with the 'second serfdom', as proxied by landlord presence on village holdings. Under the second serfdom, landlords encouraged serf activities from which they could extract rents, while stifling others which threatened manorial interests.


30 January Experiencing the French Liberalisation Experiment in Tours, 1763-1775

Daisy Gibbs (UCL)

The paper deals with the national integration of the French economy in the eighteenth century. I have tried to take a novel approach by looking at contemporary attitudes to the liberalisation of the grain trade which took place in 1763 in the administrative region of Tours in north-west France. Before 1763 in Tours, as in all of France, grain merchants were restricted in the way that they could carry out their trade. This helped to perpetuate localist consumption practices. However, when new legislation removed the ancient measures which precluded a national and international trade in grain, food riots became more commonplace across France, and in Tours. The paper examines the causes and consequences of the worst of these riots in 1774. It concludes that national economic integration and the commercialisation of the grain market was not only impeded by practical and infrastructural inefficiencies, but also by conscious rejection on the part of individuals and communities because of their concern, in emergencies, for local survival and their unwillingness to participate in an unstable national economy. This also had implications for experiences of nationality and patriotism, as the riots were construed by some authorities as being unpatriotic and in contempt of the national good, which to them required a national grain trade.


13 February Tba

27 February English agricultural development 1270-1870: reflections on new estimates of output and productivity

Mark Overton (University of Exeter)

British economic growth, 1270-1870 by Broadberry, Campbell, Klein, van Leeuwen, and Overton, presents new evidence on agricultural production and productivity as part of a project to measure GDP in Britain over six centuries. This paper considers some of the implications of this new data for our understanding of agricultural development in England, both in terms of the overall interpretive framework and in relation to existing interpretations of agricultural change.


13 March State Centralization on Europe's Periphery in the Middle Ages: Scotland and Poland Compared

Leigh Gardner (LSE) and Mikolaj Malinowski (Utrecht University)

The emergence of a centralized state capable of integrating markets and enforcing property rights is seen as a crucial moment in the economic development of countries at the core of Europe. Current work dates this emergence to as early as 1066 in England. This work has, however, largely neglected countries on Europe’s periphery.  This paper compares the histories of two such countries, Scotland and Poland, from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries in order to examine the particular opportunities and challenges faced by peripheral countries in establishing and maintaining stable centralized regime. During the period under study, both Poland and Scotland went through phases of centralization and decentralization linked to both international trade and the interventions of more powerful neighbouring states. To understand these movements, we analyse the relations between central and regional elites qualitatively based on both contemporary sources and secondary literature. We study the incentives the local elites had to align themselves with a particular central authority or remain independent. In particular we look at the need for protection, the legalization or legitimation of political power, and formation of an environment conducive to trade.