Agrarian commercial production and infrastructure (1300-1800)
Venue: Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen
Organising institution: Arbeitskreis fur spätmittelalterliche Wirtschaftsgeschichte, www.wirtschaftsgeschichte.org; Dr. Niels Petersen, Institut fur Historische Landesforschung der Universität Göttingen
Deadline for papers: 01.02.2019
Call for Papers for the annual congress of the Arbeitskreis fur Spätmittelalterliche Wirtschaftsgeschichte
The agrarian production had by far the highest share in premodern economy in the Reich. From the fifteenth century onwards it experiences a growing commercialization and specialization in crop cultivation as well as cattle breeding. However, this development did not take place in a straight line, and regional differences were huge. Innovation and intensification of agrarian production in general allowed the sale of a part of the crop or livestock, in some regions up to two thirds of the whole harvest of barley was sold. Furthermore, special crops were grown for the purpose of selling them on the markets, like flax od woad, wine, hop or garden cultures. Animal husbandry specialized in breeding, meat- or dairy production. In the wake of this change specialized, but regionally confined landscapes of production emerged. They seem to have been fully developed by the beginning of the seventeenth century, but had appeared in most parts much earlier. Those landscapes often were closely related with each other in a kind of overregional labour distribution: Cattle breeding needed the production of feed while grain farming depended on animal manure as fertilizer. The densely populated mining district of Tyrol, like other urbanized regions, imported grain. Depending on the econimic cycles those regional specializations could survive several generations or even centuries, until sooner or later all regions had to cope with economic reorientation.
Factors that constituated and formed those landscapes of agrarian production were the terrain, the soil and the climate, but as well the gravitational forces of the nearby urban markets and the demand of long-distance trade. A crucial element in this development is the forming of infrastructure, that allows to keep transaction costs under control, or, in general, to allow any distribution of the products. This includes physical structures such as roads and their related objects and storage facilities. Equally this includes institutions like norms and forms of organisation of production, for example the sale of horticultural and dairy products were regulated publicly by authorities in Augusburg in the sixteenth century.
This congress touches different fields of research, including agrarian history and economic and social history. Regional history (“Landesgeschichte”) has been very active tackling
these topics in their respective regional scales and through microstudies. The Central Place Theory that stems from Walter Christaller’s work from 1933 still serves as a starting point for explanations about the spatial impact of markets. Centrality, then, means to look out of the centre towards a rural, often percaived as dependend, hinterland. A more polycentric model presented Rolf Kießling on examples from East Swabia, including more factors and thus creating a more complex image of the urban-agrarian-relations. Finally, the analysis of spatial distribution of premodern agricultural production is often based on Johann Heinrich von Thünen’s treatise “Der isolirte Staat”, 1826, where he linked the means and ways of transport to production costs. The range of the markets and centres of consummation depended to a certain degree on the availability of ways of transport, either rivers like the Rhine, Elbe or Donau and their confluences, or roads. While the prussian cities used the option of exporting grain through the ports of Gdansk, oxen were driven over long distances over land.
The congress bacially adresses two questions: Which infrastructure accompanied the emergence and perpetuation of landscapes of agrarian production? How was this infrastructure linked especially to market oriented agrarian and how important was it in this regard?
Researchers who like to contribute a case study or general considerations are welcome to hand in their proposal with a short abstract (max. one page) until 1. February 2019 via e-mail to the following address:
Dr. Niels Petersen, Institut für Historische Landesforschung, Universität Göttingen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Presentations can be made in german or english. The organisers will inform about the outcome of the call in February 2019.
Immediately following this congress, the annual congress of the german Gesellschaft für Agrargeschichte (www.agrargeschichte.de) takes place in Göttingen (28.-29. June 2019) under the title „Doing Unequality – Praktiken der Ungleichheit in der ländlichen Gesellschaft des Spätmittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit“. You are welcome to take part in both events. In this case you may advise the organizers when handing in your proposal.