Call for Papers: Rural History 2019 Panel - Measuring agricultural productivity

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Call for papers, Rural History 2019


Rural History 2019, 10-13 September 2019, Paris, France


Panel organisers: Jeremy Hayhoe (University of Moncton, Canada); Lars Nyström (University of Gothenburg, Sweden); Ulrich Pfister, (University of Munster, Germany)


Deadline for paper proposals: January 18, 2019


Panel title: Measuring agricultural productivity before and during the Agricultural Revolution: methods and sources


This panel seeks to present various ways historians of the early modern period and the nineteenth century are currently attempting to measure agricultural productivity and evaluate the ways crop yields, farmer’s profits or the productivity of agricultural labour changed over time. The last decade or so has seen a lot of work on the subject of agricultural productivity. In the face of a lack of systematic macro-level data, historians have shown a great deal of creativity in their search for sources and the methods they have applied to their study. Leases, account books, probate inventories, government statistics and tithe records have all been exploited by historians interested in understanding how agricultural productivity may have changed over time in various regions. With the development of new methods to analyse these sources, earlier estimates of yield ratios and output per acre or hectare have been complemented with estimates of average labour productivity (Allen 2000) and total factor productivity (Hoffman 1996).

     These trends have led historians to challenge many of the conclusions of an earlier generation of historians who had done work at a national scale based substantially on contemporary estimates. There is growing awareness of the importance of local context and the fact that the timing of growth could vary by region within the same country and even locally within the same region. There has also been a sustained challenge to the dominance of the English model of growth and increasing awareness of the many different paths that countries, regions and even individual farms could take toward increasing production before chemical fertilizers became available. The availability of a wider array of productivity also renders it possible to analyse with greater detail both the proximate sources of agricultural growth and the nature of technological progress in this sector.

     For this panel we are especially interested in methodologically-oriented papers dealing with the challenges involved in the interpretation of sources and their use to measure productivity, especially over the medium or long term. Currently there are three papers proposed for the panel: one about eighteenth-century France based on probate auctions of standing grain, one using cadastral maps from nineteenth-century Sweden and one estimating total factor productivity based on factor prices recorded in farm account books in Germany from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.

Paper proposals should not exceed 200 words and should include the name and affiliation of the presenter. Proposals should be submitted directly online at the address given below.




General information on the conference:


Online submission site: