The emergence of a 'modern' labour market? Tracing rural labourers in an early modern commercial farming system: the Waasland polder area (1650-1850) 01/02/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

Present-day rural history is still dominated by the debates on the transition from a feudal agrarian system, into a peasant society and finally into a capitalist economy. In this process, farmers of polder regions are considered to be pioneers, paving the way to commercial orientated monoculture. A key element in this transformation process is the emergence of wage labour on the countryside, revealing the rise of full grown markets. This project enables us to reveal the functioning of the early modern labour market of the polder area of the Waasland. Is this region 'pioneering' in the development of 'modern' labour market? If not, did farmers still apply the traditional ways of labour exchange, characterized by informal relations and reciprocal exchange, much the same as in the neighbouring region of Inland Flanders? These questions point to the range and origin of the labour force active in the large commercial polder farms. Therefore, a detailed analyses of the profile of the rural labourers must be undertaken. By employing three students, an enormous quantity of archival material will be scrutinized, in search of scattered information on labour relations. Because of the hard to find information (in memory books and ledgers or in probate inventories) and the large scale of this research proposal, project financing is the only efficient way to build an open database that could be used for publications and that could be consulted by fellow historians of the department.

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Peasants, farmers and the rise of rural commodity markets. Test-case: the 18th century Land van Waas 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This research project tackles one central question: did rural societies with diverging household and production (income) strategies, also differed in consumptive behaviour? In Early Modern Europe, rural communities predominated by peasant smallholding and proto-industrial development coexisted with regions of specialised capitalist farming. The possibility for economic growth generated by both communities has long been debated in historiography, but mostly from the perspective of agricultural production, not consumption. Studies on urban consumptive behaviour reveal major changes in the material culture of almost all social groups in the course of the 18th century, but their impact on the countryside remains largely unknown. Through a comparative analysis of probate inventories, this research project sheds light on the divergent appropriation of changes in taste and demand in different rural communities. The Land van Waas in Flanders offers the ideal test-case for this research project. In the 18th century the region was internationally renowned for its peasant farming system and its specific proto-industrial development (clog-making etc.). However, it also encompassed an important 'polder' district where capitalist farming on large leasehold farms had emerged. By analysing consumption flows between town and countryside, between smallholders and larger farmers and between both communities, we will get a better appreciation of regional divergences in the occurrence of so-called 'consumer revolutions' in the 18th century countryside.

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Production pedlars and peasants in the early modern Southern Netherlands. Comparing the local economy. 01/02/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

This project aims to scrutinise the functioning of the local economies of two early modern regions. Using the expertise on the Alost region, a clear-cut, comparative study on the Land van Waas will be carried out. First, this project will focus on the development of a database, compiling some 600 households. Second, the database will be compared with the PhD-findings, resulting in international publications.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)