Call for papers

Call for papers is closed


The Call for Sessions for Rural History 2021 has been very successful resulting in over 90 proposed sessions whereof several proposed as double sessions. We now launch the Call for Papers to fill the accepted sessions with papers. The Call for Papers is open from 27 November 2020 to 15 January 2021 (extended deadline is 22 January 2021).

All researchers interested in presenting papers at the Rural History 2021 are invited to submit their paper proposals choosing one of the accepted session proposals. This also applies to those researchers who have already accepted to take part in proposed sessions.

See list of accepted session proposals and organisers further down on this site

Paper Proposal Guidlines:
A paper proposal must include a title, the full name(s) and affiliations(s) of the author and co-author(s), a short abstract (up to 400 words) introducing the topic, its scope and approach. Participants are asked to limit themselves to a maximum of two papers in different sessions.

Each session will last two hours and consist of 4 (or maximum 5) papers with a chair and a discussant.

Decision on acceptance will be taken after the deadline and notification of acceptance will be sent out at the latest on 18 February 2021 (extended deadline is 22 January 2021).

Welcome to be an important part of Rural History 2021!

Please, choose a session, and a second-alternative if applicable, and submit your proposal here:

List of accepted sessions

Click the session number to jump to the session abstract.

  • S1 – (Trans)national Mobilization: The March 1971 Farm Protest 50 years on
  • S2 – A biophysical and socioeconomic perspective of Agricultural Growth on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • S3 – A task based approach to the history of rural women’s work
  • S4 – Agrarian politics in early 20th-century Europe and beyond: new comparative and transnational perspectives
  • S5 – Agricultural associations and state intervention in the European agriculture, from the late nineteenth century crisis to the Great Depression
  • S6 – Between the Ivory Tower and the Farm: The Organization of the Agricultural Sciences in Twentieth-Century Europe
  • S7 – Beyond collecting: Exploring films as a means of communication for (rural) historians
  • S8 – Cattle and Colonization
  • S9 – Cheese and dairy products in the Mediterranean area (13th-16th centuries)
  • S10 – Class differentiation in contemporary rural societies
  • S11 – Climate variability and agricultural productivity in medieval and early modern times
  • S12 – Colonisation within and the internal subaltern
  • S13 – Common places: Settlements, local actors and collective property in an emic perspective
  • S14 – Consumer markets and services in the countryside, 1650-1950
  • S15 – Contested boundaries after the Great War – views from the former Habsburg countryside
  • S16 – Creating a New Peasant: Nation-Building, Modernist Discourses, and the Re-making of Rural Subjects in Interwar East Central Europe
  • S17 – Crisis narratives and strategies of women in transforming rural areas since the 1960s
  • S18 – Demeter in the Classrooms: Agricultural Education for Children, Mid-18th-20th Centuries
  • S19 – Developing a taste for the new: Global exchange and regional adoption of foods.
  • S20 – Digital Tools and Property. From the extraction of data to spatial analysis
  • S21 – Drought Effects on Rural Communities: Historical Perspectives in a Warming World
  • S22 – Enclosures and productivity
  • S23 – Environmental and Biological Hazards and Redistribution in Rural History
  • S24 – Evidence of Wage Labour in Early Modern Household and Farm Accounts
  • S25 – Experts, institutions and networks in international rural development in the second half of the 20th century
  • S26 – Farmers that count: standardisation and tutelage in farm accounting, 18th and 20th century
  • S27 – Food Security in the Early Modern and Modern Era 1
  • S28 – Food Security in the Early Modern and Modern Era 2
  • S29 – From Agriculture to Rural Development – Agro-Food Policies, Socio-economic and Environmental Issues in Agriculture and Rural Areas 1950-2020
  • S30 – From rural modernities to agricultural modernisation, 1930s-1960s
  • S31 – Global figures: tools for observing and governing agricultural markets
  • S32 – Global Pathogens, Local Pathologies: How agricultural epidemics are shaping global and local agrarian and environmental change
  • S33 – Grafted institutions. European transfers, institutional bricolage and the evolution of property rights in Latin America
  • S34 – Heritages of Rural Hunger: Comparative European Perspectives
  • S35 – Hidden Modernizers. Working Animals in 19th and 20th Century Agriculture
  • S36 – Historical forms of sustainability – collective forests and pastures since 1600 in a European perspective
  • S37 – Inequality and differentiation among medieval peasants
  • S38 – Institutions and Socio-Economic Change in the Medieval Countryside: Case-Studies and Comparisons across Italy and Europe (1100-1500)
  • S39 – Land conflicts and property rights in the Iberian empires
  • S40 – Maize for the people. Cultivation, consumption and trade in the northeastern Mediterranean (16th-19th c.)
  • S41 – Mechanisms of food preparedness and narratives of hunger in 20th century Western Europe
  • S42 – Meet the author: Paul Brassley et al. The real agricultural revolution – Farmers, large and small, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • S43 – Meet the Authors: Oxford Handbook of Agricultural History
  • S44 – Meet-the-author: “Peasants in World History”
  • S45 – Meet-the-author: Zsuzsanna Varga, The Hungarian Agricultural Miracle? – Sovietization and Americanization in a Communist Country
  • S46 – Microcredit as an Economic Rural Resource. Comparing Models in the Historical Perspective
  • S47 – New Evidence about Women, Rural Places, and Gender Relations during the Nineteenth Century
  • S48 – New model peasant. Income integration in peasant economies in central and eastern Europe
  • S49 – New Perspectives on Grain Storage
  • S50 – New Perspectives on Hunting in Pre-Industrial Europe
  • S51 – New theoretical approaches to pre-industrial rural household labour
  • S52 – Organising and Practicing Seasonal Labour: Rural Livelihoods, Mobility and Regulation (1920s-1940s and Today)
  • S53 – Public intervention and the birth of the new Viticulture and Winemaking in Europe (end 19th- 20th Centuries)
  • S54 – Re-inventing rurality? Contemporary debates and historical perspectives
  • S55 – Representations of the Countryside
  • S56 – Rural history as rural labour history: a Mediterranean perspective on social and economic change?
  • S57 – Rural Museums Session 1: Museums and collections and the production of local histories and historical knowledge
  • S58 – Rural Museums Session 2: Rural and agricultural museums as sites for connecting past with present
  • S59 – Rural Politics and Society: Representing and representation in rural society
  • S60 – Rural Women and Farm Work: Gender Relations, and New Research on the Lives of 20th Century Farm Women
  • S61 – Rurality, Literacy, and Democracy: Southern Europe in the 1st half of the 20th century
  • S62 – Seeds and agricultural changes in Europe (XV-XX centuries)
  • S63 – Social conflicts in early modern Europe: New tools and new perspectives
  • S64 – Starch: Production, commercialisation and effect on agrarian system.
  • S65 – The Great Depression and the rural world in South-eastern Europe; evaluating and representing the agrarian change
  • S66 – The History of Horticulture
  • S67 – The long history of short-term jobs 1560-1860
  • S68 – The Provision of Rural Credit in Pre-Industrial Europe
  • S69 – The role of agriculture in economic development and structural change: a 20th Century macro perspective
  • S70 – The Seamy Side of Rural Commons? Inequality and Exclusion in the Management of Early Modern Collective Resources
  • S71 – The Seasonality of Rural Work and its Experience in Preindustrial Europe
  • S72 – The social construction of the market. Market land transfers in customary systems in Europe and developing countries, 18th-21st centuries
  • S73 – The technical background which link us. (The technical background of agriculture in the early modern and modern Central Europe), UBB, Cluj
  • S74 – The ‘Rural Consumer’ – Consumer Goods, Consumption, and Material Culture of Rural Households in Early Modern Europe
  • S75 – Tourism and rural communities
  • S76 – Trading Encounters in the countryside – on practices of petty trade in Norden, 1860-1940.
  • S77 – Transforming the Hinterland. Labour Relations and Livelihood Options in European Forestry and Timber Trade, ca. 1700 to 1950
  • S78 – Widows, Family, Economy and Survival
  • S79 – Women in European Agricultural Extension Services in the Twentieth Century: Prominence versus Policy
  • S80 – Wooded meadows and grazed forests – The history of multiple-product land use in wooded agricultural ecosystems
  • S81 – Young rural history scholars – a network introduction
  • S82 – ‘Secondary products’: Production, consumption and trade of the forgotten goods of pre-modern Europe

Session abstracts

S1 – (Trans)national Mobilization: The March 1971 Farm Protest 50 years on

Chantal Bisschop1, Carine Germond2

1 Centre for Agrarian History (CAG), Belgium
2 Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, Norway

Introduction On 23 March 1971, 80.000 to 100.000 farmers from all over the member states of the European Communities flocked the streets of the Belgian Capital to protest against Commissioner Mansholt’s plans for reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and tumbling farm prices and incomes. This massive demonstration went into the rural historical annals on multiple accounts. It was the first truly transnationally coordinated farm protest since the creation of the CAP. Staged to show the unity and solidarity of Community farmers across national borders, the demonstration epitomized the emergence of a transnational farm alliance against CAP reform attempts by the European Commission. Unlike past farm protests, the March 1971 demonstration had a unique character. It was not only massive, but it took novel forms too, i.a. cows interrupting the Agriculture Ministers’ discussions as they were ushered in the Council’s meeting room; and it climaxed in a destructive riot. The violence that accompanied the protest made newspaper headlines and marked the minds of the contemporaries. Lastly, it succeeded to a large extent in achieving its aim, namely to pressure the national agricultural ministers into substantially watering down the Commission’s initial reform proposal and adopting in 1972 three Directives that were more in line with farm interests and preferences.

As the demonstration’s 50th anniversary will be commemorated in 2021, the aim of the panel is twofold. First, we set out to take a fresh stock of this seminal protest based on archival records and oral history interviews. Second, we seek to embed it into the history of farm protest in the European Union and that of the CAP. The papers revisit this pivotal farm protest by engaging with different, national, transnational and supranational vantage points, examining the reactions to and reception of the protest,and assessing the legacy of the demonstration on farm protest patterns and forms. All papers will draw upon a variety of archival records from e.g. national and transnational farm groups, European institutions, private papers, and oral history interviews. The panel contributors are both senior and junior academics from across Europe.

S2 – A biophysical and socioeconomic perspective of Agricultural Growth on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th and 20th centuries

Manuel González-de-Molina1, Enric Tello2

1 Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain
2 Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

Introduction There is a growing consensus among the scientific community that agricultural intensification has been accomplished at the expense of the environment and that sustainability is a prerequisite for productive agriculture. However, there is no link between the mainstream historiographical narrative about agricultural growth and the environmental concerns of a growing portion of society and the scientific community itself. For a large sector of world historiography, the history of agriculture is an “outstanding success story” (Federico, 2009). Production grew faster than population, making nutritional transition easier, putting an end to traditional shortages in the consumption of meat and dairy, and significantly improving the standard of living of citizens. Indeed, this vision prevails at a time when serious socioeconomic and environmental problems are questioning the future viability of the industrial farming model. The food-related health problems, the new outlooks adopted by the ‘Agrarian Question’ (such as new forms of inequality regarding access to land and agricultural income), and the rethinking of the role played by agriculture in economic development challenge this optimistic vision. With a few exceptions, historians have been fairly unreceptive to the socio-environmental problems caused by the industrialization of agriculture. Recent literature maintains a line of enquiry that is more concerned with analysing the economic dimension of agrarian growth than with integrating contributions from Agroecology, Ecological Economics, or Environmental History. The environment, when it is considered, is understood exclusively as a container for resources and, therefore, a factor that can foster or limit a country’s possibility for growth.

Historians should consider not only the growing increase in land and labour productivity, but also shedding light on how it was achieved and the external costs this has entailed for the environment, new forms of social inequality and the future generations. A deeper understanding of agricultural activity would balance its achievements and shortcomings. To achieve this, we need a biophysical view of this evolution, new theoretical approach and a new methodology that combine and interlink the biophysical aspects of the evolution of agroecosystems with economic and social aspects. The papers collected in this session are a good example of this. They offer different biophysical and socio-economic perspectives on agricultural growth in Latin America and Europe using innovative methodologies such as input/output analysis applied to the environmental impacts of agricultural growth in agriculture, energy analysis through EROIs, or the methodologies of Social Metabolism applied to agriculture and water resources. On the other hand, by collecting case studies from Latin America and Europe, it provides an insight into the different pace and impact that agricultural growth has had on both sides of the Atlantic, and explores the complementarities and dependencies set through international trade. In short, this session aims to provide a different view of the evolution of agriculture from 1800 to the present, offering a more diverse and encompassing picture that is better adjusted to the complex and multidimensional reality of agrarian production seen from our current societal and environmental challenges.

S3 – A task based approach to the history of rural women’s work

Jane Whittle1, Maria Ågren2

1 University of Exeter
2 Uppsala University

Introduction This session brings together two large research projects and their lead researchers to examine women’s work in agriculture. Uppsala University’s Gender and Work (GaW) project led by Maria Ågren has researched women’s work in early modern Sweden (GaW1) and is currently investigating the period 1720-1880 in Sweden (GaW2). Exeter University’s ‘Women’s work in rural England’ project looked at women’s work in south-west England in the period 1500-1700; this investigation is currently being expanded to look at women’s work during the same period in northern and east-central England: both projects are led by Jane Whittle in collaboration with Mark Hailwood. The Swedish and English projects use a very similar methodology, collecting evidence of work activities (the verb-based or task-based approach) from a range of documents, and analyzing this evidence quantitatively as well as qualitatively. The findings from the first stage of each project have resulted in high profile publications: Maria Ågren ed. Making a Living, Making a Difference (OUP, 2017), Jane Whittle and Mark Hailwood, ‘The gender division of labour in early modern England’ Economic History Review 73:1 (2020). In this panel we will present our findings from the new stages of each project and undertake a detailed comparison of our findings. All papers will be jointly presented.

The GaW research projects are funded by the Swedish Wallenberg Foundations. Exeter’s women’s work projects were funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and the European Research Council.

S4 – Agrarian politics in early 20th-century Europe and beyond: new comparative and transnational perspectives

Lucian George1

1 University of Oxford

Introduction The political reputation of the European peasant has long contained an unresolved duality – stalwart of tradition on the one hand, untamed insurgent on the other. By the early 20th century this duality was weakened, as modernisation eroded the bases for traditionalism and the jacquerie alike. Simultaneously, however, the rise of mass politics that modernisation entailed only served to magnify this contradiction. The village now became a battleground for political actors from both the Left and the Right, many of whom were themselves peasants determined to create an autonomous political space for the countryside. In their quest to conquer the peasants, these actors not only appealed to the peasants’ competing instincts – be it egalitarianism or an attachment to property, hostility to elites or to the Jew – but also sought to intensify those instincts most suited to their own political aims. Peasants thus entered the political scene in a bewildering, often overlapping variety of incarnations – both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary, democratic and antidemocratic, nationalist and internationalist – fusing modern ideologies with earlier elements of peasant culture in the process.

This variety of incarnations, however, has largely been occluded by national divisions within European historiography. Comparative studies of peasant politics remain scarce; terms like “peasant radicalism” carry vastly different associations depending on national context. Connectedly, the prevalence of political history approaches has so far obscured the role of peasant culture in shaping peasant politics.

This session will seek to remedy these shortcomings, bringing together papers on early 20th-century agrarianism in different parts of Europe and beyond, with a view to transgressing the boundaries imposed by nation-based and political history.

S5 – Agricultural associations and state intervention in the European agriculture, from the late nineteenth century crisis to the Great Depression

Jordi Planas1, Anton Schuurman2, Yves Segers3

1 University of Barcelona
2 Wageningen University
3 KU Leuven

Introduction From the late nineteenth-century crisis there was a growing social mobilization in the Eusopean countryside, with the diffusion of agricultural associations (landowners associations, farmers unions, specialized crop producers’ associations, cooperatives,…) that led to a much more organised rural society. The role of the state in agriculture also experienced a great transformation. The state intervention in agricultural markets expanded involving many areas: since the late nineteenth century, governments used not only trade policy to protect domestic markets, but they also introduced many regulations affecting quality, quantity and prices in domestic markets, and they promoted innovations to make agricultural producers more competitive. The First World War experiences made supportive farm policies much more needed and possible, and led to a general setback of free markets and a growing role of the state in agriculture. Already before the 1930s, the state got involved one way or another with the development of agriculture (in the promotion of technical change in agriculture, in the regulation of agricultural markets, in the development of farm supportive policies,…), but there were not only differences in policies, but also in management and organization, as well as in the role of associations as intermediary institutions between the state and the rural society and, especially, in the design and implementation of agricultural policies. In this double session panel, we would like to compare and discuss different experiences in Western Europe regarding the growing organisation of agriculture, looking at the changing role of the state (or public administrations in a broad sense) and the interplay with agricultural associations and movements in a period (from the late nineteenth century to the Great Depression) when specific agricultural policies started to be implemented.

S6 – Between the Ivory Tower and the Farm: The Organization of the Agricultural Sciences in Twentieth-Century Europe

Karl Bruno1, 2, Per Lundin3

1 KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
2 King’s College London, United Kingdom
3 Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Introduction During the nineteenth century, scientific research seeking to address problems of agriculture and forestry began across Europe, often (though not always) in close relation to practical farming. Towards the end of the century and into the next, agricultural research was then increasingly affected by the rise of the university as a research institution. Far from all agricultural research became incorporated in universities, but academic structures and cultures gradually became important points of reference for those involved in it, even if they remained focused on concrete problems of farming. This generated a tension between academic status on the one hand, and practical relevance on the other, that went on to shape both the structure and the content of agricultural science throughout the twentieth century. Such developments have been accounted for in studies of various national contexts, most systematically by Jonathan Harwood in his analysis of agricultural colleges in turn-of-the-century Germany. There have been no attempts at comparisons across national borders, however, even though there were considerable differences between countries in terms of how public agricultural research was organized and the extent to which it remained separate from institutions of higher education.

We therefore propose a comparative panel that will bring together scholars from different European countries to discuss the twentieth-century organization of the agricultural sciences and their relation both to the academy and to stakeholders outside academic institutions. This will broaden our knowledge of the cultural, economic, and political conditions and factors that have shaped the development of the agricultural sciences, throwing new light on their role and stature throughout the century. This is not only a historical problem, but an issue of contemporary relevance too. Many agricultural universities in Europe have recently broadened their scope significantly and many are also rebranding themselves as more general life science institutions. Our understanding of this present-day trend is enhanced by a longer perspective on agricultural science’s ongoing struggle with its dual identity as a both practical and academic pursuit of knowledge.

Questions we plan to address in the session include: How have the agricultural sciences been organized in different countries during the twentieth century, and how has this shaped research goals and practices? Which ideals of knowledge production have been most important, and how and why have they varied over time? How have relations to other sciences, and to non-scientific stakeholders, shaped and been shaped by the organization and practice of agricultural science?

S7 – Beyond collecting: Exploring films as a means of communication for (rural) historians

Peter Moser1, Juri Auderset1, Andreas Wigger1

1 Archives of Rural History, Bern

Introduction Films are important for historians of the 20th century. Since online-platforms like the one created by the European Rural History Film Association ( provide access to an increasing number of films, rural historians rely on them in similar ways as they have done so far on photographs and written or oral sources. But the question remains whether films are “only” a source for historians or also an appropriate means of communication for historical insights and narratives. This question is particularly relevant in an era of media consumption when texts are increasingly questioned as the main form of communication in the academic world and certainly losing their primacy in non-academic circles.
The aim of this panel is to analyse the potential of films as a means of communication in history. Proposals addressing the question whether video essays are an alternative or at least a complementary form of publication for historians are particularly welcome. Contributions in this panel may take on the form of video essays, documentaries, workshop reports or theoretical reflections.

S8 – Cattle and Colonization

Claire Strom1

1 Rollins College

Introduction This panel will explore the connections between cattle and colonization in different locations around the globe. Europeans viewed livestock as an important driver of imperialism, both intentionally and otherwise. From the Cape Colony to Colombia, cattle helped Europeans take over new lands, dominate indigenous peoples, and realize vast profits.

This had a variety of consequences. Non-native species, when introduced to an ecology, frequently fundamentally altered it. Their very animality impacted colonized ecosystems and indigenous economies, facilitating imperialism. Nonetheless, the ability of cattle to succeed in new environments was not inevitable. Deliberate actions of the colonizing humans often proved vital in facilitating the biological irruption of Old World domestic livestock. Colonizers encouraged the killing of native animals that competed with their livestock. They also ensured the success of their cattle by cultural domination. As conquerors, the Europeans imposed their laws regarding land and stock. Conveniently, the colonists articulated that ownership of land was tied to intensive, “European-style” use of land. They did not recognize most of the land management practiced by indigenous peoples throughout the New World and Antipodes as agriculture and, thus, did not recognize the land as being owned. Thus, native resources were legally appropriated for western cattle, enhancing this species’ odds of survival. Where biological pressures and legal advantages proved insufficient, colonists ensured the domination of Old World cattle with violence. The histories of European expansion are rife with violence from official military campaigns to extralegal massacres. These frequently had the effect, either intended or ancillary, of benefiting stockraising.

Thus, over the course of four to five hundred years, Europeans succeeded in colonizing much of the globe. Cattle facilitated this process, which altered countless ecosystems and resulted in huge species loss and the disintegration of indigenous cultures. However, European livestock and conceptions of stockraising also changed. New environments dramatically altered animal breeds, and colonists purposefully bred animals to prosper in local conditions and meet market requirements.

The introduction of non-native species also allowed indigenous peoples to interact with animals previously unknown to them. This changed their relationship with the land and other peoples. Interactions—usually unequal–between colonists and indigenous peoples grew around cattle production, which had economic, social, and political consequences.

S9 – Cheese and dairy products in the Mediterranean area (13th-16th centuries)

Frederic Aparisi1, Fabian Kümmeler2

1 Universitat de València
2 Universität Wien and Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Austria

Introduction Particularly in the Mediterranean area, little is known about the production and the trade of secondary products such as leather, honey, wood, pine nuts, or cheese. This session thus focuses on a particular topic of the aforementioned ones, the production of cheese and dairy products in different regions of Mediterranean Europe. We seek to determine the regional areas of specialization and the networks of commercialization. Related to that, we would like to outline the distribution routes both overland and by sea, and what as trade and the return route. Furthermore, we are interested in studying the integration of local productions and importations in local contexts. In other words, we want to study supply and demand related to cheese. But beyond this economic analysis, we are also interested in the social perspective of the producers. Basically: Who were they? Were they the shepherds themselves or did the shepherds sell the milk to specialized producers? And how many people did exist between the producer and the consumer? These and other questions this session seeks to answer.

S10 – Class differentiation in contemporary rural societies

Alba Díaz Geada1, Lisandro Cañon Voirin1

1 HISTAGRA Research Group, University of Santiago de Compostela

Introduction The main objective of this session is to delve into the study of changes in social differentiation in rural societies throughout the contemporary history, to understand the extent to which the process of peasant ownership or peasant proletarization affected such differentiation. In a way, our aim is to retake or draw links with that debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and the historiographical interest in that object of study. We are also interested in the study of the possible specific changes motivated by civil wars, genocides and post-war famines that, as a hypothesis, seem to have accentuated social inequality within communities. We welcome investigations that address the reconfigurations of class differentiation during the processes of intensification of capitalist relations of production in the Second World War, at that time of modernization, deruralization and migration to urban and industrial areas. Studies from all continents are welcomed, with special interest in European and Latin American case studies. The comparative look will undoubtedly contribute to making the approaches more complex and rethinking the possible answers to a classic question, but not for that reason finished.

S11 – Climate variability and agricultural productivity in medieval and early modern times

Heli Huhtamaa1, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist2

1 Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research & Institute of History, University of Bern, Switzerland
2 Department of History & Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Sweden

Introduction Since the works of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (1967) and Christian Pfister (1975, 1981), among other pioneering studies in the field, rural historians are commonly acknowledging that pre-industrial agriculture was sensitive to climate variability. Furthermore, several scholars have detected medieval and early modern subsistence crises resulting from unfavourable climatic conditions – although the proposed climate-famine linkages have received also harsh criticism from the historical community. Over the recent decades, palaeoclimatology and historical climatology have provided additional material for historians to further investigate these questions: high-resolution climate reconstructions. This session will present an overview, and provide novel examples, of this recent scholarship on the intersection of palaeoclimatology and agrarian history. The session aims to address the following questions: (1) From which materials we can assess past climate variability? (2) How did changes in temperature, precipitation and drought affect crop yields? (3) To what extent can the occurrence of food shortages, famines, and demographic changes be connected to climate variations? (4) How does the traditional famine narratives compare to the new understanding within this dynamic field?

The session will be composed of papers addressing how past climate variability have influenced agricultural production in medieval and early modern times, and how humans have responded to maintain their food security during the times of changing climate. Papers exploring these topics within medieval and early modern agricultural societies in any part of the world are encouraged to join the session, although special emphasis is paid on the early modern Swedish Realm. The session addresses how the recent advances in palaeoclimatology have made the study on climate-agriculture relationships more feasible than before – but how traditional disciplinary boundaries between the humanities and the natural sciences still hamper such research. The session also seeks to present case studies on how medieval and early modern written sources, like tithe records, can be used to estimate relative and absolute changes in grain production, and to what extent the climatic influence can be detected from such material. And last, the session aims to critically re-evaluate the narratives of climate–famine inter-dependency and address, inter alia, the possible influences of the cooler “Little Ice Age” on crop cultivation and food security.

S12 – Colonisation within and the internal subaltern

Iain Robertson1, Carl Griffin2

1 University of the Highlands and Islands
2 University of Sussex

Introduction Iain McKinnon has recently argued that the process of making private common land in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland was considered a necessary act of ‘domestic colonisation’ inside the imperial ‘mother country’. In this act, the will of the English ruling classes was imposed on the peoples and lands of Scotland, those peoples and lands colonised in a way with striking similarities – and critical differences – to the processes of colonisation enacted by the English (then later the British) Empire on territories beyond England. If imperial history is written as an exercise in invading then governing once sovereign spaces and nations overseas, the parallel processes of colonisation enacted upon the peoples and spaces of the ‘metropole’ has been given scant attention at best, with the very different Irish experience an inexact shorthand for deeper engagement.

In this session we do not wish to consider every act of cultural and material dispossession in England, Scotland, and Wales as an act of colonisation. And yet, where such dispossessions represented an external imposing of wills and alien systems by those at a distance on a peoples conceived as other and inferior, this was internal colonisation pure and simple. Moreover, cultural and material dispossession was further buttressed not just through telling such peoples as other but by positioning them discursively and through acts of dispossession as, after Spivak, subaltern.

We contend that this system was invariably a rural one, played out not in the towns but in and on the land. We also contend that it played out in all imperial contexts, not just the British one. Certain spaces – at certain times – of other European ‘metropoles’ likewise subject to the same processes of internal colonial dispossession and the inscribing of certain peoples of the metropole as an internal subaltern. And such processes remain as the example of China’s treatment of the Uighur peoples and their lands attest. It is important to note that as well as being geographically and temporally fractured, these processes were, in part, shaped by local opposition and acts of resistance, in some places strong and sustained, in others barely audible. In this session we would therefore welcome contributions from scholars working on acts of ‘colonisation within’ and their oppositions in any context – and comparative studies – throughout the globe to open up global dialogue and discussion.

Papers might consider, but are not limited to:

  • Practices and policies of dispossession
  • Governing spaces of internal colonialism
  • Internal settler colonialism
  • The making of the internal subaltern
  • Applying imperial knowledge to governing the metropole
  • Opposition and resistance to internal colonial schemes


S13 – Common places: Settlements, local actors and collective property in an emic perspective

Vittorio Tigrino1, Giulia Beltrametti2

1 Università del Piemonte orientale – Italy
2 LabisAlp – Laboratory for the History of the Alps – Switzerland

Introduction In our panel we would like to shed light on the ethnographic permutations and transformations in the collective management of natural resources in local spaces. Through a combined anthropological and historical reflection on institutional changes in different areas we want to analyse how different administrations interpreted the concrete reality of the commons in uplands areas and particularly how this interpretation qualified the places, the local spaces, and consequently caused effects on the actual management of the resources (woods, pastures, water in their relation with local institutions, families, kinships, households, parishes, hamlets, municipalities).Our goal is to focus – in order to have a comparative perspective – on different moments of deep institutional change in different geographical areas and with different cronologie , with their radical administrative re-configuration of the political relations. As we know one of the most typical tool of the administrations were inquiries, statistics or surveys, reports, investigations. We would like to analyse these inquiries always rooting the research in the spatial (local) dimension, confronting different sources as well (especially oral or field sources) and trying to read the local space beyond the answers given during the inquiry surveys (in modern and contemporary times). We would like to point out how the local institutions re-interpreted the issue itself of the collective management of natural resources in the local space and all the previous administrative and legal debate on it. We would like to dedicate a reflection, also using ethnographic insights on the caesuras, the institutional “black outs”, or changes. One of our main points will be to explore the relation among the administrative structure (i.e. the existence of municipalities, that are radically transformed starting from the Ancien régime period), the local settlements (i.e. hamlets), the local institutions of collective management (i.e. households, or kinships). The local space was built over time by these dynamics (often taking the form of a conflict), and our purpose is to analyse, thanks to a comparative perspective with different case studies, the redefinition over the time of the relationship between local communities and common resources (regarding uses, practices, ownership, claims. The real “stakeholders” (to use a modern term) were very disparate and “irregular” local groups (villages, parishes, cantons, districts, families) existing often exactly in relation to the common resources they were managing, or using, or claiming. So, the administrative “decoupage” caused not only local conflicts, disputes, or – quite the opposite – offered the opportunity to new (local or not local) actors to claim rights on resources in a new way, but constituted and constitute still today – as the ethnographic perspective will show – a sort of filter in historical sources: a filter that is however possible to use as a perpective for the interpretation of the continuous process of construction of the local space.

S14 – Consumer markets and services in the countryside, 1650-1950

Christine Fertig1, Jon Stobart2

1 University of Münster
2 Manchester Metropolitan University

Introduction In this (double)session the participants of the Rural History Conference 2019 would like to meet again to discuss the continuation of their projects on rural shops and services. The topic remains important and hardly researched. We would therefore like to take the opportunity once again to come together at the Rural History Conference and further develop our cooperation. What follows is the original abstract (Rural History 2019):

Although several studies in the 1980s noted the growing importance of the non-agrarian rural population over the course of the early modern period, village shops and craftsmen have received less attention than their urban counterparts. Towns are seen as distribution and redistribution centres, supplying the needs of their surrounding hinterlands and linking their produce to more distant markets. By contrast, rural economies, settlements and people are cast in a passive role. This picture is remarkably resilient, remaining largely untouched by the recent surge of interest in urban retailing and its role in consumer transformation. The occasional studies that have focused on these trades suggest a long „golden“ 18th century, followed by a marked decline from the later 19th century. Yet the universality of this trajectory and the underlying causal mechanisms have yet to be fully explored. Was the growth in rural services occurring in response to evolutions in agriculture or was it linked to consumer transformation that introduced a plethora of new consumables in the countryside? In short, we need to know more about the socio-economic conditions that encouraged rural shops and services to thrive and/or led to their demise. At the same time, we need to explore the capacity of village shops and craftspeople to shape systems of production. To what extent did they influence local agriculture; what was their role in providing farmers with the machines and fertilizers to follow the agricultural transformations at work in this decisive period? What role did they play in linking rural production to urban and rural demand, especially for food, and how did this bring them into contact or conflict with urban retailers and service producers? This double panel seeks to explore rural and small-town shops and services in ways that pay due regard to economic, social and spatial complexities, and to their wider role in food supply, agricultural transformation and consumer change. By including papers from different countries, we offer comparative perspectives which highlight the impact of local, regional and national contexts.

S15 – Contested boundaries after the Great War – views from the former Habsburg countryside

Christian Promitzer1, Jernej Kosi2, Ionela Zaharia1

1 University of Graz / Institute for History
2 University of Ljubljana / Department of History

Introduction The end the Great War signified the demise of the Habsburg Empire and the extension of nation states on its territory. Victorious national movements from within the former Empire and irredentist claims from already existing nation states (like Romania, Serbia and Italy) became the pacemakers of unfolding events. Their actions – conceived in urban centres and often staged in the countryside – tended to be mutually exclusive with respect to their claims and therefore encompassed potentials for new armed conflicts. While urban elites thus tried to round off national territories by use of arms and on the conference table, the rural population was rarely asked for its will which was often taken for granted.

This session concentrates on the agency of the rural population on whose soil these events took place. The villagers were not only roped into ethnic struggles, but due to the new borders they were also often cut off from their former sales markets which additionally aggravated their need to make a living. One has therefore to pose the question, if the villagers did consider their incorporation into a new body politic really a chance for welfare or at least a surrogate for the loss of traditional certainties.

Within the new post war contexts subsistence certainly became more difficult, even when the ethnic identity of the population in concern coincided with the new state’s eponymous nation. But what if that was not the case? Most of them, like Romania, Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in particular, were hybrid by nature and would incorporate ethnic minorities – as was also the case with Hungary and Austria. In a situation of already radicalized ethnic tensions former privileged ethnic groups now became subaltern and vice versa. In other cases, people developed features of switching identities or of national indifference, be it as strategies of mimicry, or because they assessed ethnic identity less important than a peaceful adoption to the new political circumstances. Sujets mixtes, however, people of pendant ethnic identity who still had existed within the former imperial context, started to vanish.

In-depth research of the diverse survival strategies of rural populations in the post war period furthermore has to consider that each village / settlement had its contingencies with single features and traditions, whereby forms of settlement, geography and ecotype, as well as the overhanging cultural and ethnic determinants have to be taken into consideration. Below this genius loci one has also to regard internal differentiations which can be pursued onto the level of sub-peasant strata and of separate households. Inns, priests, teachers, local councils, members of police and military patrols, in turn, served as intersections between the local community and the external world; thereby, rivalling factors from the latter would affect the local communities.

The contributions of the session are based on records from private, regional, church and state archives and on contemporary printed sources (newspapers, memories etc.).

S16 – Creating a New Peasant: Nation-Building, Modernist Discourses, and the Re-making of Rural Subjects in Interwar East Central Europe

Isidora Grubački1, Vojtech Pojar1, Lucija Balikić2, Christopher Wendt3

1 Central European University, Hungary
2 Central European University, Austria
3 European University Institute, Italy

Introduction Following the collapse of the old continental empires during the “long” First World War (1912—1923), the space of East Central Europe was fragmented into several small or medium-sized states. From Poland to Yugoslavia, from Czechoslovakia to Romania, the states of East Central Europe were pronouncedly agrarian and managed large rural populations. Seeking to reinforce their legitimacy and resilience in a time of increased uncertainty, these states embraced modernizing agendas. Yet, the modernity they wished to create was often to be produced in the rural spaces. Frequently linked to the nationalist and nationalizing discourses that located the pure core of the imagined nation in the peasantry, the modernizing agendas of these states thus focused to an important extent on rural populations. In our session, we explore the strategies of various social and political actors in interwar East Central Europe who sought to appropriate these agendas and modernize the rural communities.

In his classic book on rural modernization, Eugene Weber famously explored how peasants turned into Frenchmen. Unlike Weber, however, this session does not approach individuals and their experiences as pre-existing or self-enclosed, but rather views them as plastic subjects shaped by various discourses. Drawing on this Foucauldian assumption, and on the methods of intellectual and social history, the session engages with the impact of modernist discourses and initiatives on rural subjectivity. Ranging from feminist education to mass gymnastics, and from eugenics to religious modernism, we analyse the multiple ways in which actors located in various contexts embraced these discourses and adapted them to diverse ideologies. Reversing Weber’s question, our session thus explores how the citizens of the newly emerged or expanded states of interwar East Central Europe were molded into new, modern rural subjects.

Space is another central analytical category of our session. We explore the strategies employed to shape rural subjects by looking at the historical processes from below and emphasizing the local dynamics that involved a wide variety of state and non-state actors. This perspective from below will reveal the presence of resistance, negotiation, and ambiguity, and, at the same time, show how nation building worked on the local level, co-opting various groups and delegating parts of the state’s responsibilities to them. The session will thus show the emergence of rural modernity in East Central Europe as a complex, negotiated process.

S17 – Crisis narratives and strategies of women in transforming rural areas since the 1960s

Maria Hetzer1, Zsuzsanna Varga2

1 Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
2 Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest

Introduction How do women in rural landscapes experience social crisis? In what particular way are they resilient to crisis, or, do they assimilate novel ideas?
Research has shown women’s work and everyday lives to be most affected and vulnerable to social crisis. If there are genderspecific consequences of rural transformations, are social crises also experienced differently by women? In what particular ways do they describe their hardships?
Crisis experiences can be characterised and narrated in many mays. For example, this can be done on the grounds of »enduring change«, with women fighting off specific attacks on their daily lives and well-being in the context of a wider socio-political transformation. On another note, women have always been self-empowered historical actors pushing rural transformation. Their agencies are manifold, e.g. driven by an urge to develop financial self-reliance, or to improve their children’s future. What are continuities and changes to women’s status on these grounds since World War II?

The panel carves out the consequences of fundamental challenges to women’s lives in transforming rural areas of modernity. We explore how their life and work was shaped by new constraints and opportunities. Following on from this, we show how gender roles and expectations change as a consequence of survival strategies on the one hand, and changing village communal practices on the other. We are particularly interested in a comparison between different ways of managing and narrating crisis with regard to the end and emergence of specific master narratives such as globalisation, cold war, neoliberalism, climate change, emancipation and gender war. Is there an old way to talk crisis versus a more contemporary »rural style«?

Within this framework of questions, look forward to receiving proposals that analyse women’s crisis strategies and narratives since the 1960s pertaining to the following:

  • growing access to education and professional qualification,
  • (self-)sustainability and (self-)empowerment,
  • climate change and environmental awareness,
  • mobility practices,
  • dealing with aging in rural areas,
  • changes in occupation and employment structure, job profiles in agriculture and rural industries as well as outside of rural areas.


S18 – Demeter in the Classrooms: Agricultural Education for Children, Mid-18th-20th Centuries

Martino Lorenzo Fagnani1, Laurent Brassart2, Luciano Maffi3

1 Università di Pavia
2 Université de Lille
3 Università di Parma

Introduction Historiography is more and more interested in the development of rural education, especially in the training of the teachers and their didactic strategies. In this panel, we focus on the study of agricultural education, a technical branch that has been investigated above all for the history of secondary and higher education, less so in primary education.

The scenario in which we want to collect the paper proposals is from the whole of Europe from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries, comparing different realities, considering points of contact and rupture.

Our goals are four:

  1. We want to investigate the presence of basic agricultural knowledge in the training of primary teachers. Already during the nineteenth century, the European governments became increasingly aware that teachers must have a solid background in humanities as well as in technical and scientific subjects. In rural schools, were teachers expected to give a first education in agriculture? How did their background change during the period analysed? Did the increasing mobility lead to an enrichment of their preparation? Given the importance of parish schools in many European areas, we can also reason on the preparation that ministers of all religions had in the field of elementary agriculture education. In Europe, still at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the clergymen had the role of bearers of simple agricultural notions in the rural society. How were they instructed in that field?
  2. We want to study the didactic material used in schools for the transmission of basic agricultural knowledge to children. From this point of view, the synergy between material history, cultural history and the history of publishing is important. The teaching “tools” could include complete sections in real textbooks, but also self-help books with instructive tales. Moreover, small gardens and natural collections set up by the teachers, and trips to farms and workshops had a great didactic value.
  3. We want to analyse the role of social actors. Beyond the concerned Ministries, which other agents supported the importance of elementary agriculture education and by what means? Municipalities, farmers’ associations, entrepreneurs, religious orders, scientific institutions collaborated, supporting the circulation of technical knowledge. How did this “mobilization” take place? What were the differences from one geographical area to another? What was the relationship between the social actors: cooperation or competition?
  4. We also want to consider the link between scientific and peasant knowledge. Did the teachers synthesize those two types of knowledge or were they part of a top-down system? Can we consider them as intermediaries between the peasant world in which they lived everyday (and from which many of them came) and the “cultivated” world they were familiar with? What were their own level of scientific contribution?

The proposals should focus their attention on the period from the end of the eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries. We will choose proposals with the most solid scientific bases. We welcome papers that discuss cases from different European regions.

S19 – Developing a taste for the new: Global exchange and regional adoption of foods.

Maximilian Martsch1, 2, Robert Moretti3

1 Institute for Rural History, Sankt Pölten, Austria
2 Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria
3 Paris Lodron University Salzburg, Austria

Introduction The powerful but often subtle ways in which food has shaped human lives has gained increasing attention from historians and other scholars in recent years. The panel focuses on global food exchanges and their influence on agrarian systems, culinary practices, and consumption. Throughout history, alien food items have been incorporated into rural societies and eventually became cash crops or staple dishes. Exchange processes of food, crops, and dishes were interwoven in complex webs of knowledge, environment, technologies, practices, and tastes connecting people from different backgrounds and places. Investigating these entanglements can reveal specific modes of adaptation, acculturalization, and knowledge formation. The “success” of new plants and dishes was bound to a myriad of political, social, economic, and cultural factors. By studying these different factors, we identify patterns and pathways, which led to the establishment – or the failure – of certain foods and crops.
The contributors discuss case studies covering various regions, foodstuffs, and periods. Their talks focus on processes of acclimatization involving field trails, public and scientific debates regarding dietary values and possible applications, the role of diasporic communities, campaigns promoting the cultivation and consumption of specific foods or even sensory aspects such as taste, look, and smell. Thus, the panel draws a varied picture of the multifaceted role of food in human culture, life, history.

S20 – Digital Tools and Property. From the extraction of data to spatial analysis

Gérard Béaur1, Rosa Congost2, Enric Saguer2, Anne Vitu3

1 CNRS & EHESS, Paris, France
2 Universitat de Girona, Spain
3 CNRS, Paris, France

Introduction The issue of property, either dealing with its definition, the various overlapping of property rights, or with its distribution among social groups, the transfers of land through the market or the inheritance systems, the land use practices, and finally with all kinds of changes over time concerning these topics has since long attracted the interest of historians. With conventional statistical tools, they have greatly advanced our knowledge in this area by working with data at the local or regional or even national scale and by comparing their results. Many unknown factors remain however while this kind of approach is marking time, and while this decline raises a lot of questions. The eclipse of quantitative studies is all the more surprising in that the computer opened up hitherto unexpected perspectives. Today, it is possible to go further with the digital tools that have recently been developed and which offer even more possibilities to improve our analysis and to enhance our knowledge. This is the case with a lot of progress in the automation of manuscript transcription methods, which assist the researcher from data entry to statistical processing. This is the case too with the Geographic Information Systems which provide extremely efficient instruments for spatializing phenomena.

The objective of this panel is to present new applications resulting from these techniques of analysis and representation and to highlight the range of possibilities which are henceforth accessible to develop much finer and more efficient studies than in the past. Property in its social and spatial dimensions will therefore be considered through the prism of these tools, the contributions of which need to be circumscribed. We will focus on the qualitative changes in ownership, on the forms of transaction, on the price systems, on the extent of the movements of ownership through the market, for sale or for rent, on the flows of credit, as well as on the methods of allocation of land and urban buildings through inheritance processes, on the organization of land or the structure of urban housing. We will endeavor to take advantage of the new techniques which are thus offered to us to put these data in relation and ultimately to obtain a better understanding of the functioning of property relations in different societies.

S21 – Drought Effects on Rural Communities: Historical Perspectives in a Warming World

Nicolas Maughan1, Chantal Camenisch2, Andrea Kiss3

1 I2M UMR-CNRS 7373, Aix-Marseille University, France
2 Institute of History, University of Bern, Switzerland
3 Institute of Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Austria

Introduction Global climate change has sharpened focus on the social and economic challenges associated with water deficits, particularly in regions where anthropogenic demands exceed supply. In view of global warming it is predicted that heat waves in the future will be more intense, more frequent and longer lasting. Observational evidence indeed provides some support for an increasing frequency of hot extremes across the globe. However, long-term changes in the frequency and severity of drought events and heat waves are still poorly understood, especially in rural areas. In this regard, knowledge of past climatic extremes and their impact is a research priority to derive predictive points of reference for adaptation and loss reduction. A better understanding of historical climate-driven extremes, which may range from several months to decades, on rural communities and in the functioning and productivity of different agro-ecosystems is also beneficial for other disciplines towards improving adaptation and mitigation strategies for predicted climate change.

This session aims to explore rapid and short-term socio-environmental consequences as well as long-term changes induced by adverse effects of past drought events (evidence of declining impact or increasing adaptability of rural communities). So, a particular attention is given to interdisciplinary approaches linking reconstructions of specific severe drought episodes from historical and natural archives and consecutive significant socio-economic impacts, migration waves, uprisings, famines, etc… as well as landscape changes and agricultural transformations at a local or regional scale (without geographical limitation).

S22 – Enclosures and productivity

Marja Erikson1, Mats Morell1

1 Department of Economic History, Uppsala University

Introduction Enclosure and productivity in pre-industrial Europe: ways to measure and explanatory mechanisms

The importance of enclosures, signifying privatization of land use, privatization of ownership of commons and consolidation of shattered arable open field strips have been a perennial topic in discussions on agricultural progress before the industrial breakthrough.  It has been proposed that enclosures, by efficiently establishing private property rights liberated innovative entrepreneurs from the bondage of village communities and that enclosure was a prerequisite for land use changes and introduction of new crops which raised land productivity. Others have presented data objecting to this.  For some regions e.g. Scania, southern Sweden, it has been shown that production per farm, controlling for other factors was distinctly higher on enclosed than non-enclosed farms. Some researchers, focusing the classical English case, insist that enclosures and the formation of large capitalist farms were the centrepiece of the agricultural revolution and that rents, reflecting productivity, rose due to enclosures. Others claim that the rent rise did not reflect productivity growth but income redistribution. Others still claim there were no rent rises connected to enclosures and for much of the continent the importance of enclosures has often been played down. This session addresses methods to measure productivity increase in a way rendering it possible to determine the influence of enclosures (or similar changes of institutional arrangements). Furthermore, it shall explore the mechanisms, by which, enclosures may have affected land productivity. Regional, empirical studies discussing these topics will be presented.

We invite regional empirical studies related to this topic from any part of Europe.

S23 – Environmental and Biological Hazards and Redistribution in Rural History

Daniel R. Curtis1, Bram van Besouw1

1 Erasmus University Rotterdam

Introduction Throughout history, environmental and biological hazards have caused distress and suffering for rural societies. However, as well as aggregate damages – sometimes leading to disasters – hazards also had powers of redistribution for wealth, property and resources. In some cases, this created a ‘leveling effect’, making societies more equitable, and in some cases, buffers, consolidation or speculation combined to further widen or entrench inequalities. Questions remain unanswered, however. What explains the different redistributive directions seen after hazards, and furthermore, what explains the different magnitudes of redistribution? Why is some redistribution more structural and long lasting, but other redistributive effects prove temporary and disappear quickly? Who gains from this redistribution, and who loses?

In this session, we offer a set of papers on post-hazard redistribution of wealth, property and resources in the countryside. Focus can be on any environmental or biological hazard – epidemic disease, earthquake, or extreme weather event (leading to a flood, drought, ruination of crops) – during any period of history in any part of the rural world. Measurements of redistribution should be restricted to wealth, property, or resources that guarantee welfare, and the mechanisms of redistribution can range from the functioning of land and lease markets, inheritance systems, commodity markets, state interventions, and collective institutions such as poor relief and commons. The nature of redistribution can also be down various lines – not just between rich and poor, but also between men and women, between the elderly and the young, and between community ‘insiders’ and community ‘outsiders’ such as recent migrants.

S24 – Evidence of Wage Labour in Early Modern Household and Farm Accounts

Jane Whittle1

1 University of Exeter

Introduction For many years farm and household accounts have been used to collect data about wage rates. Yet wage rates are only one type of data about workers that accounts can provide. Accounts are also a rich source for studying types of workers, their working patterns and the nature of their contracts. What is more, while the wage series of different countries are often compared, evidence of the types of worker employed has rarely been viewed comparatively. This session brings together studies of early modern accounts focused on rural labour from three countries: England, Flanders and Sweden. Papers examine and compare wage rates, the type and numbers of workers employed (e.g. servants, day labourers and task workers, craftsmen and specialists; women, men, and children), the regularity of their employment (e.g. days worked in a year, number of years employed), and the way in which they were paid (e.g. payments in cash and kind; piece and time rates, the regularity of payment). The session aims to highlight important similarities and differences between European countries across the early modern period by comparing detailed studies of the labour recorded in accounts, as well as discussing the strengths and weaknesses of household and farm accounts as a source of evidence.

S25 – Experts, institutions and networks in international rural development in the second half of the 20th century

Mario De Prospo1, Harro Maat2

1 Università di Bologna, Italy
2 Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands

Introduction The decades after the Second World War saw a strong political commitment to improving the conditions of the poorest and less developed populations of the planet. This goal could be achieved through the contribution of experts and the further employment of scientific knowledge and Western technology. This period also witnessed a debate about the definition of “underdevelopment” and possible solutions to it, which involved new and old participants, with different approaches and ideas. Under the shared moral imperative of decent living conditions for all humans, different actors and organisations appeared to have different ideological commitments, different economic interests, and preferred strategies to implement ‘development.’.

Agriculture and the welfare of the rural population were one of the main areas of intervention of the development aid programmes and projects. Policymakers and experts were well aware of the opportunities provided by the considerable technical and scientific progress achieved in this field. The goal of prosperous worldwide agriculture, capable of providing sufficient food for all and ensuring a good quality of life for rural populations, seemed to be at hand in those years. Along with these enormous expectations and possibilities, it was soon clear that there were significant complications and challenges in achieving these ambitious objectives: lack of understanding of socio-cultural contexts and of local know-hows; low involvement of the institutions of recipient countries; environmental problems; persistence of famine in many regions; political instability; difficulties in accessing markets; gaps in the supply chains.

This session aims to present studies that focus on historical cases regarding practices and discourses of rural development in the global arena in the post-war years. Each contribution will present recent research on the activities of organisations and experts involved in international cooperation programs and projects in this field, analysing different aspects of their efforts: role of the overall debate on development, the dialectic between top-down approach versus the bottom-up, influence of the profiles and previous experience of the experts and personnel involved, the role of the technology available and of knowledge exchange, the weight of conflicts and imbalances in the international political arena. This panel will try to stimulate the debate, by understanding and comparing the main ideas, discussions, different paradigms, procedures, experiences that were promoted for the common development goal.

S26 – Farmers that count: standardisation and tutelage in farm accounting, 18th and 20th century

Federico D’Onofrio1, Nathalie Joly2

1 Ca’Foscari University of Venice
2 Agrosup Dijon, University of Bourgogne

Introduction This session is dedicated to accountancy literacy among farmers and its increase over the course of the past two centuries. The spread of accounting techniques in Europe has been traditionally associated with the rise of a merchant class in the centres of capitalist development: Northern Italy, the Low Countries, England. But what about the case of agriculture? If large estates have a long tradition of formal accounting, small farmers have a reputation for resistance to managerial as well as technological innovations and are often associated in the literature with forms of agriculture only marginally affected by markets until well into the 20th century.

In fact, starting with the 18th century, the accounting literacy of farmers became a central topic for agricultural experts and reformers. Agronomic treatises predominantly targeted future administrators of large estates and landowners and taught them how to keep double entry accounting, but, already in the first half of the 19th century, textbooks and schools heralded an era of popularisation of accounting techniques. Medium and small peasants were introduced to book-keeping that should help them open up to markets. Moreover, alternative means of record-keeping existed that encapsulated facts and figures in written memories and publishers successfully sold record documents accessible to all types of farmers in the 19th century. Accounting offices appeared in the second half of the 19th century, with the task of assisting different kinds of farmers with more formal and standardised kinds of book-keeping.

In response to the agricultural crisis of the last quarter of the century, rural associations of certain European countries began establishing courses targeted at small and medium farmers. In Germany and eventually in Switzerland and elsewhere, the education of farmers became a key concern of rural associations. The fostering of “farmers that counted” was an essential element of agricultural modernization.

Such a deliberate attempt at spreading accountancy methods from above has little parallel in other contexts and reveals how states, agricultural experts and large landowners tried to establish their tutelage over farmers in agricultural modernization. It was also accompanied by an effort to standardize accounting methods for statistical purposes not just at national but at international level that was actually made possible by the tight control exerted by agricultural experts on accounting courses.

This session intends to track the evolution of accountancy in agriculture, by collecting contributions dedicated to the creation of the “accounting farmer” between the 18th and 20th century.

Our contributions investigate the connections between control and standardization in the spreading of accounting techniques and/or focus on the emergence of accounting courses and accounting offices in order to understand how this key managerial technology shaped the everyday life of farmers. Papers discuss the forms of discipline and control that the accounting technology introduces in the practice of farmers and examine the types of distortion, translation and goal-shifting involved in actual accounting practices. Gender-based approaches are particularly welcome since accounting practices prescribed specific roles to women and sanctioned ideals of exclusion and inclusion of women in the farming business.

S27 – Food Security in the Early Modern and Modern Era 1

Erik Hallberg1, Timo Myllyntaus2

1 Department of Historical Studies, Gothenburg University
2 Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

Introduction  Food Security in the Early Modern Era 1

A Comparative Perspective to Food Crises in the Baltic Sea Rim
From strict regulation to the submission to market power, the state management of food systems fundamentally impacts societies and cultures. Today’s food challenges are dire: food poverty caused by social inequality, inefficiencies, and maldistribution. Few people still believe that money can buy food security. Reforms are needed. Structural changes to enable people to eat and live better, and within planet boundaries, must play a central role in tomorrow’s politics.
From the last few centuries, we know that such reforms can go utterly different ways, from heavy regulation over mixed-economy systems to entirely free-traded ones. In each of these, the control is transferred from big firms and landowners to local retailers and smallholders or vice versa. Any revision or reform of the food system is an extensive and delicate political process, transforming the relationships between consumers, producers and distributors, as well as between the people and the state.

In this session we want to develop a comparative perspective on how states have introduced and handled food systems during the early modern and modern era in the Baltic Sea area.

  • How and by whom are food systems implemented? What role do popular demands play?
  • What is the economic, social and ecological impact of food systems? Why do they succeed or fail? What is the interaction between reforms of food systems and supply and mortality crises?
  • How are different national food systems related? What are the ideological and practical associations and implications?
  • How do food systems interact with various stakeholders: peasant households, proletarian households, large landowners, village institutions, urban communities, large wholesalers, political movements, and governments?


S28 – Food Security in the Early Modern and Modern Era 2

Timo Myllyntaus1, Eric Hallberg2

1 University of Turku
2 University of Gothenburg

Introduction Food Security in the Early Modern and Modern Era 2
This  session is divided in two parts

A) A Comparative Perspective to Distressed Regions in Nordic and Eastern Europe

Although countries are often observed as more or less homogenous entities, regional heterogeneity may be considerable. Cities differ from the countryside and both rural and urban areas contain significant diversity. Natural disasters seldom hit the entire countries and epidemics, poverty, famines, unemployment and crimes tend to concentrate on some regions. We will examine what factors make some regions more vulnerable than others. Misfortunes may strike randomly, but in some cases, regions have faced successive setbacks.  The focus is, on the one hand, natural circumstances, and on the other hand, structural and administrative factors of regional and local societies and the economy. Topical research questions include whether adversities were caused by natural factors, economic backwardness or poor administration – or combinations of them. Contributors examine spatial inequality and regional underperformance during the 19th century and deal in one way or another with crop damages failing food security and undernourishment. In preindustrial time, famine has been regarded as the most serious underperformance of both the economy and administration. Especially successive famines highlighted regional and local differences in the well-being of people. Were the failures of food security random events or regular vicious circles of the underperforming economy at the regional level?

B) Creating Food Insecurity? The State and the Market in Times of Short Food Supply

During the 19th and 20th century, the idea of free trade has been important in many liberal European countries. In the event of crises, however, the functioning of the market was tested. Not seldom, leaders began to advocate a protectionist attitude to domestic food production. Creating trade barriers could, nevertheless, result in less and worse food on the table.

This session discusses market functioning and market access during times of crisis using 19th and 20thexamples from the Baltic Sea area. Until the twentieth century, market access was to a varying degree regionally unequal, not least due to regional differences in transport and transaction costs. Due to the spatial functioning of the market, a food crisis ran the risk of having markedly different regional effects.

Additionally, the policies pursued could promote or hinder the functioning of the market. In the Baltic Sea area, the central power was relatively strong and was able to regulate relatively successfully, which producers were allowed to compete on the market and which were not. In 20th-century Sweden, agriculture was ever more protected to ensure food security while horticulture was not.

S29 – From Agriculture to Rural Development – Agro-Food Policies, Socio-economic and Environmental Issues in Agriculture and Rural Areas 1950-2020

Paulina Rytkönen1, 2, Per Eriksson2, 3, Håkan Tunón2, 4, Anders Wästfeldt2

1 Södertörn University
2 Committee for library, archives and historical projects, Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry
3 Academy Librarian, Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry
4 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Introduction From Agriculture to Rural Development – Agro-Food Policies, Socio-economic and Environmental Issues in Agriculture and Rural Areas 1950-2020

Rural development has in recent years become a key instrument in national and regional development policies and in public initiatives to cope with the fast depopulation of remote/less favored rural areas, increasing financial uncertainty that forces farmers to raise farm productivity, or to change economic activities by for example opening B&Bs, offering tourism services, elaborating farm produce, or by selling directly to consumers through CSA schemes, or farmer’s markets.

At least in Europe, the shift from a previous focus on agriculture and agricultural development to rural development is driven by interconnected processes influenced by policies, public initiatives, and market events, all of which have repercussions on rural development or vice versa.

Some of these have been thoroughly discussed, for example the origins and consequences of the globalization of agro-food markets, the “disappearing peasantries” and depopulation of rural areas leading a dramatic transformation of rural societies and agriculture in various contexts. Moreover, a consciousness about the origins of environmental challenges, not the least biodiversity loss and recurring weather-related events, including floods, droughts, and wildfires and the new challenges that these events present to society, governments, the agro-food sector, and local and rural communities all over the world. Today policy makers and societies expectat that rural areas continue to produce food and timber, but also raw materials to substitute fossil fuel and thereby support the de-industrialization, re-industrialization, and structural changes in the economy. The potential of rural areas for the creation of new post-industrial jobs is expected to prevent further depopulation of rural areas, promote rural cohesion and create new post-industrial work opportunities in rural tourism and other rurally based service industries. Moreover, since the 1950’s, a number of economic, environmental, social, ethical and resource-based crises have taken place, some of which have been studied separately, especially concerning their origins, but only few studies have tried to approach their long-term consequences.

In spite of the decimation in number of farms, current debates show that rural areas and the agro-food sector have a role to play in maintaining regional and national economies, fostering food sovereignty and resilience. However, our understanding of the historical sources of change or stagnation and the parallel previous and currently ongoing processes behind change is still limited.

This session invites scholars from all research fields and disciplines involved in contemporary rural history to contribute with empirical and theoretical contributions on topics related to the shift from agricultural led development to rural development from 1950-2020.

Best papers will be eligible for a special issue in the journal Agronomy,


  • agricultural, food, environmental and rural development policies
  • governance
  • local food systems and CSA
  • rural development and cohesion
  • farming strategies
  • agricultural, rural and social entrepreneurship
  • biocultural heritage
  • environmental challenges and opportunities
  • labor issues, labor migration, competence, and educational gaps and experiences
  • gender issues related to rural development
  • empowerment, rural responses, and local community strategies
  • agricultural and rural history


S30 – From rural modernities to agricultural modernisation, 1930s-1960s

Juan Pan-Montojo1, Lourenzo Fernández Prieto2, Miguel Cabo2

1 Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
2 Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

Introduction This proposal is based upon a hypothesis: in the interwar period, there were in the world different and conflicting projects for the “progress” of rural societies, whereas in the second half of the 20th century a single project for agricultural development with slight local variations, became hegemonic. Agricultural development and modernisation were accepted as a general horizon on both sides of the Iron Curtain and, gradually, in the other world, the so-called Third, and inspired in the 1960s a more than technological programme known as Green Revolution.
The two concepts of development and modernisation came to have a quite similar meaning everywhere. They meant growth of marketable production, subordination of agriculture to agroindustry, mechanisation and motorisation, commoditisation and industrialisation of inputs, new uses and sources of energy, and professionalisation of farmers (with new forms of education, a new sexual division of labour in the households…).
In that context, after WW2, agrarian parties disappeared or changed their names and agricultural unions and associations became more uniform everywhere. Agrarian projects and utopias dissolved into varieties of agricultural exceptionalism, and ambitious horizons for modern rural societies were replaced by diverse options for specific agrarian and territorial policies that aimed at modernisation.
The aim of this session is to discuss the interactions among the processes of change at various levels that underlie the passage from the interwar variegated modern projects to modernisation. We are looking for analyses that focus on the transition between the pre and post-war models in a concrete sphere (environmental, productive, technical, social, political, cultural…), at a regional, national or general level, and connect it to other convergent processes of change. We would like to put together historians that discussed this historical passage and attempted to identify its key elements and causes. We think that this revision of the past is an essential contribution of rural historians to a sustainable future.

S31 – Global figures: tools for observing and governing agricultural markets

Niccolò Mignemi1, Federico D’Onofrio2

1 Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France
2 Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy

Introduction The present session is part of a longer reflection on the organization of the international agricultural markets between the 19th and the 20th century. It intends to mark a step forward, relying on the debates of the two last editions of the Rural History Conference. We started looking at transnational networks of agrarianism (Leuven, 2017), then we examined the role of experts in the making of global markets (Paris, 2019). In 2021, we focus on the production of data as tools of knowledge and governance of the international agricultural markets in the period 1880-1950.
This period has been characterized in different terms, insisting on the emergence of an agro-industrial knowledge society stretching across the North-Atlantic or stressing the creation of regulated national and – to a lesser extent – international markets. Our panel will thus contribute to the debate on the periodization of this crucial turn in the history of the agricultural and rural worlds. While we do not deny continuities, the interwar transition and the establishment of a new “food order” in the Cold War era seems to us to represent a significant break in practices of transnational governance.
Our panel session intends to examine the evolution in the regimes of knowledge production in agricultural markets. By focusing on tools, we will thus question the co-production of the analytical and the regulatory frameworks. These evolutions will be investigated by looking at the following aspects: the changing place of economic and statistical science in the decision-making process; the way norms and standards on data translated scientific knowledge into political decisions; the connections between scientific, governmental and professional actors in terms of their collaborations, agendas, and funding schemes.
Existing research has emphasized the growing role of the state and expert-driven policies since the First World War. The present panel will pay specific attention to the interplay of public and private interests from a longer perspective. While the role of states and governments has figured prominently in the history of quantification, recent literature insisted on the role of both international organizations and transnational interest groups in creating the knowledge infrastructure of transnational markets. We invite authors to consider the diversity of actors involved in such processes of knowledge and data production. Their role in inventing, shaping and negotiating tools for the observation and the regulation of the agricultural markets will allow us to analyze crucial changes connected to the “transnational process of nationalization of agriculture”.
In particular, we propose to focus on economic knowledge of market mechanisms, looking at both the stocks and flows of inputs, outputs, labor, resources and capital essential to agricultural development. How did statistical knowledge of agricultural markets enable their organization and the creation of regulatory mechanisms?



S32 – Global Pathogens, Local Pathologies: How agricultural epidemics are shaping global and local agrarian and environmental change

Christian Colella1, Fiona Panziera2, Fabio Gatti3, Michele Bandiera4

1 Independent Scholar
2 Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agronomique l’Alimentation et l’Environnement (INRAE), Université Paris-Est Marne La Vallée
3 International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague
4 Università degli Studi di Padova, Dipartimento di Studi Storici Geografici e Antropologici (DiSSGeA)

Introduction Plant pathogens have the capacity of potentially wiping out in a matter of a few years entire ecosystems, economies, redesigning whole landscapes, and redrawing the political and sociocultural matrix of the territories and the plants they colonize. Although the phenomenon is certainly not new, the last decades saw an alarming increase in new emerging plant diseases (Freer-Smith and Webber 2017).

The European potato blight crisis in the mid nineteenth century, together with Phylloxera affecting grapevines in the second half of the nineteenth century, are two examples of well known agricultural epidemics that shaped both the newly formed phytopathological scientific discipline as well as the international policy agreements on plant protection (Castonguay, 2010). There is increasing evidence that the establishment of global agricultural commodity trade routes and its acceleration that went hand in hand with the expansion of colonial European empires paved the way for such new diseases, some of which are now still on the rise.

The panel will focus on the social and human dimensions of agricultural outbreaks (Urquhart et al. 2018) and aims at answering the following questions: what is the role played by agricultural pest epidemics in shaping global and local agrarian and environmental change? What are the environmental and social consequences of the proliferation of such ‘feral biologies’ (Tsing et al. 2020) and their connection with increasingly common monocultural systems? What broader meaning do those phyto-sanitary crises acquire at the global and the local scale, and how are agricultural practices affected?

These issues are especially important in a historical epoch such as the Anthropocene, where the impact of human activity on the planet has become so tangible that life on earth is starting to be considered potentially under threat. We believe that rising concerns around climate change, environmental degradation, and ecological destruction ask for new conceptual tools which allow to rebuild new collective meanings in order to learn the “art of living in a damaged planet” (Tsing et al. 2017).

With contributions and reflections coming from a wide range of disciplines and approaches, such as social anthropology, human geography, political ecology and environmental history, the aim is to examine how pathogens, pests and invasive species have interacted and interact with plants, forests, humans and rural ecosystems in the European as well as the global context. This year will be remembered as the year it became somehow widely accepted that microscopic agents could be capable of affecting and shaping not just scientific research activities, but also economies, political decisions, geopolitical relations, and national and international jurisdictional regulations. It can be argued that plant pathogens and agricultural pests possess the same features. It is therefore crucial to try to reconnect the local contingency of the technoscientific and sociopolitical management of plant disease with the global and systemic circulation of plants and plant pathogens, the establishment of monocultures worldwide, and more generally with a systemic approach which aims at challenging the modernist agricultural paradigm to foster alternatives that give analytical and political legitimacy to the other-than-human world.


S33 – Grafted institutions. European transfers, institutional bricolage and the evolution of property rights in Latin America

José-Miguel Lana1

1 INARBE ( Institute for Advanced Research in Business and Economics), Public University of Navarre, Pamplona-Iruña, Spain

Introduction The aim of this session is to discuss the emergence and evolution of new institutional realities in Latin America between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, making use of the institutional bricolage approach. This concept serves to highlight the agency of the population affected by changes and its ability to adapt to new circumstances through bricolage practices in specific contexts with specific power balances.

Bricolage practices include aggregation, alteration and articulation. By the term aggregation, we refer to a recombination of newly introduced institutions and locally embedded institutions.  Alteration consists in adapting institutions with certain changes in order to fit better the circumstances of the new context. By articulation, we understand the claiming of traditional identities and culture and the rejection of newly introduced institutions.

We would like to examine the institutional transfers from Europe to America. We also discuss how these institutions evolved in contact with new social and environmental conditions. Institutions such as municipalities (‘concejos’), municipal ownership (‘bienes de propios’), byelaws (‘ordenanzas’), emphyteusis, tenancy, sharecropping, trust ownership (‘mayorazgo’, ‘fideicomiso’), etc, could be analyzed and compared.

In short, we would like to understand how institutions that had a trajectory in the Old World were introduced and transformed in the New World, where social actors interacted in contexts that were different in terms of environment, social structure, power balance, and culture.

S34 – Heritages of Rural Hunger: Comparative European Perspectives

Marguérite Corporaal1, Ingrid De Zwarte2, Lindsay Janssen1, Peter Gray3

1 Radboud University
2 Wageningen University & Research
3 Queen’s University Belfast

Introduction Rural infrastructures and communities play a significant role in the histories of modern European famines; often as areas which were worst affected by hunger because of blight, weather circumstances or collectivization, such as the west of Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845-50 (Gray 1999; Ó Gradá et al. 2007), the Andalusian countryside during the años del hambre (1939-53) (Del Arco Blanco 2007; Román Ruiz 2015) or the grain-growing areas in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33 (Graziosi 1996; Davies & Wheatcroft 2004).

Conversely, rural areas also served as places of refuge from famines, or as regions from which relief could be obtained. During the famine in Axis-occupied Greece (1941-44), mortality increases were higher in towns than in rural areas, where many people would still own small plots of land (Hionidou 2006). During the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-45, people from the urbanized western Netherlands went on food expeditions to farmers in the North and East, while famished children were evacuated from the cities to these rural regions, thereby increasing their chances for survival (De Zwarte 2016, 2020).

In light of this, it is not remarkable that rural Europe is central to the heritage practices and cultural legacies of these periods of starvation. Naar de Boeren! (To the Farmers!) at the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam (2015) and the Doagh Famine Village heritage centre in Ireland are among many examples of how rural history informs famine heritage. This panel brings together a wide array of disciplines and primary research matter on the rural dimensions of hunger. Against a background of predominantly nation-based approaches to heritage and education, it innovatively seeks the overarching, European perspective the case studies from Spain, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands comparatively offer. Together these papers will analyse recurring tropes and frames through which the rural dimensions of European famine pasts have been remediated in the past century. The papers will investigate representations of the rural world in contexts of famine in educational textbooks, heritage initiatives and curation practices (e.g. Riihimäki railway track, the Meenagarragh’s Cottier’s House in the Ulster Folk Park) as well as filmic heritage.

S35 – Hidden Modernizers. Working Animals in 19th and 20th Century Agriculture

Juri Auderset1

1 Archives of Rural History, Bern

Introduction Working animals were an integral part of agricultural production throughout the 19th and well into the second half of the 20th century. Working animal’s historical agency influenced material and social arrangements on the farms and its surroundings, they provided physical power, energy and skills necessary for farm work and they shaped human perception and interpretation of farming, nature and the rural world. Despite this ubiquity of working animals and the intensity of human-animal interactions in agricultural contexts, historical research has treated them mainly as remnants of a pre-modern past and symbols of backward farming practices that lingered on into the modern age, only to be replaced finally by tractors and motorized machinery. This narrative logic of “overcoming” working animals by technological progress has not only pushed them to the margins of historical research, but also acted as a blinker for understanding the complexities of technological and environmental change in agriculture and the roles played by working animals therein.

This panel proposes to question this interpretation and to explore the modernization of agriculture through the prism of working animals. It invites contributions that account for the numerical significance and the diverse roles of working animals on farms and that analyze the work relationships between humans and animals in 19th and 20th century agriculture. The aim of the panel is to test the hypothesis that working animals were by no means obstacles for the modernization of agricultural production, but rather a versatile and resilient living source of power, skill, companionship and emotional attachment that structured the transformation of modern agriculture in decisive ways.

S36 – Historical forms of sustainability – collective forests and pastures since 1600 in a European perspective

Martin Stuber1, Jesper Larsson2

1 University of Bern
2 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Introduction Sustainability defined as transgenerational thinking and acting is at the heart of communal organizations and their common property institutions in their own views as well as from external perceptions. Sustainability in the sense of robustness of common property institutions is also the key element in Elinor Ostrom’s work, in which robustness is based empirically on eight so-called design principles. At the same time, the concept of sustainability, with its three classical dimensions of ecological resilience, social justice and economic efficiency, is an open-ended analytical tool for comparative research on collective resource usage practices in space and time.

The issue of sustainability is currently high on the political agenda, and the question of what role the commons have played in this complex in the past and what they will play in the future is of central interest. This is particularly true in the context of declining relative prices for the yields from forests and pastures which stand at the center of this session and which play a crucial role in the sustainable conservation of European landscapes and their biodiversity. If common property institutions want to survive and continue to play this important role in the future, they must have a high degree of transformation capacity so that they can both adapt to changing circumstances and be active in shaping them.

In order to further investigate such forms of dynamic sustainability, the session will analyze four historical approaches that are particularly well suited for comparison from a European perspective. 1)  Economy of sustainability based on quantitative long-term analyses of demography, finances, livestock, timber harvest, production of milk and cheese etc. 2)  Rituals of balance starting from the analysis of visual sources (decision making, community work, tensions between individual, family and corporation) 3)  The role of the commons in agricultural and forest modernization based on programmatic and legislation 4)  Land use intensities and the organization of space by means of cartographic analyses.

S37 – Inequality and differentiation among medieval peasants

Antoni Furio1, Phillipp Schofield2

1 Universitat de Valencia (Spain)
2 University of Aberyswyth (UK)

Introduction Medieval peasants have often been seen as a homogeneous and amorphous block without fissures or internal distinctions. A social group characterized economically by backwardness and technical stagnation, by a lack of initiative and entrepreneurship, aversion to change and risk, and socially and politically by its antagonism with the manor block. Lords and peasants in an immobile, immutable, almost timeless environment. However, medievalists have been striving for a long time to break this cliché, to show that medieval peasants were not autarchic producers living outside of exchange mechanisms and oriented essentially to self-consumption, and therefore unable to lead processes of agrarian change and innovation but only responsive to the pressure of lords or merchants. These self-sufficient and isolated peasants, completely beyond the reach of the market and providing for only themselves, existed nowhere in the late Middle Ages, by which time processes of commercialisation were already evident in eleventh-century Western Europe.
Recent studies, on the other hand, have highlighted not only peasant agency but also the existence of strong internal differences in the peasantry, produced by the process of economic growth begun in the tenth and eleventh centuries, almost at the very beginning of feudalism, and which increased from the thirteenth century with the development of the so-called process of commercialisation, studied mainly by English medievalists. Rodney Hilton was one of the first to talk about the immense differences in the size of peasant holdings, which in turn would reflect a clear social stratification, which would only increase in the last centuries of the Middle Ages. More than forty years ago Hilton published a seminal study on the “Reasons for inequality among medieval peasants”, in which he warned, however, that the stratification of the medieval peasantry cannot be attributed only to the markets in land and agricultural products” and that “the complex interplay between land availability, technical progress, inheritance and endowment customs, demands for rent and tax and the resistance capacity of the peasants must also be examined”. Subsequent literature (Miller and Hatcher, Hatcher and Bailey, Dyer, Britnell) has emphasized the importance of several factors, such as population growth, along with a divisible inheritance system, the peasant land market, differences in access to land and property rights over it, expansion of arable land, commercial development, and so on. On the other hand, the interest in inequality and its growth displayed in recent years by economists and historians, with works as important as those by Piketty, Milanovic or Alfani, has also led to an attempt to measure its significance and development in pre-industrial times, including the Middle Ages, but the focus has been mainly on large cities and towns, and less on the countryside. The purpose of this session is to return to the subject, to delve into the reasons for inequality among medieval peasants, applying both the tools developed by economic historians and the reflections of those medievalists who have never ceased working on the subject since Hilton directed their attention to it as significant and a worthy subject for analysis.

S38 – Institutions and Socio-Economic Change in the Medieval Countryside: Case-Studies and Comparisons across Italy and Europe (1100-1500)

Davide Cristoferi1, Lorenzo Tabarrini2

1 Ghent University
2 University of Bologna

Introduction During the central and late Middle Ages, rural economy and society witnessed radical changes all across Europe. In this regard, the role of institutions and socio-property relations such as seigneurial powers, leasing systems, credit markets and peasant agency have been extensively explored by rural historians and medievalists, thus leading to an overall renewal of this field of inquiry. Such achievements, however, have not been homogeneously shared by all European historiographies. That on Italy, for instance, notwithstanding a rich tradition in rural studies, has been relatively less interested in the current agenda of rural history, except for commons (Alfani, Rao 2011) and economic inequalities (Alfani 2014). Moreover, comparative analyses of institutions and socioeconomic change in the Italian countryside over the period 1100-1500 within a European perspective are very rare (a recent exception is Provero 2020).

This panel contributes to filling this gap by addressing the role of institutions and the dynamics of socioeconomic changes in the rural countryside through case-studies and comparisons from the Italian peninsula and western Europe (namely France and England). It first aims to question the role of seigneurial powers and credit markets in shaping overall growth from – roughly – 1100 to 1250. It then moves on to assessing the impact of different leasing systems (e.g. sharecropping), of power relations between the cities and their countryside, and of law-enforcement patterns in shaping economic inequalities and peasant resistance over the late medieval period (1250-1500).

Some examples will help to clarify our objectives. Research on the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries has often been rife with the narrative of the expansion of urban mercantile classes into the countryside as one of the main factors of economic development – in both Italy and Europe. In this regard, however, several questions can be asked: what was the role played by rural aristocracies? Were they backward, ‘feudal’ lords? Or did they share the entrepreneurial attitude of the bourgeoisie? Similarly, Italian and European scholarship on the central and late Middle Ages has mostly focused on large-scale credit activities – the bedrock on which international networks of trade were built; petty credit to agriculturists has been comparatively less studied. Is the evolution of small-scale rural credit a symptom of economic growth? And how is it related to the transformations of land management?

Finally, inequalities represent one of the major fields of investigation of current economic research, and the way these were shaped by – or else adapted to – extant ecosystems and farming regimes is of paramount importance for the understanding of society and economy as a whole. The wealth of information enshrined by late medieval sources makes room for new research: what was the interplay between different farming regimes and socioeconomic inequalities in the countryside? And how did the institutional structures of urban governing bodies contribute to shaping debt relations between landlords and tenants? Addressing these questions, moreover, will help to throw light on how inequalities could lead to social unrest and peasant resistance.

S39 – Land conflicts and property rights in the Iberian empires

Márcia Motta1, Harold Langfur2

1 Universidade Federal Fluminense
2 State University of New York at Buffalo

Introduction This session includes analyses and comparisons of the various meanings of property rights, in the context of land movements and conflicts in the Iberian Empires, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. In our view, these rights are revealed in the relations present in the conflicts involving different social agents—indigenous groups, Africans and Afro-descendants, and colonizing agents, among others—in the processes of occupation of the overseas territories once belonging to Spain and Portugal. In other words, the different views of these various actors with respect to the forms of possessing land by local populations dialogue and/or clash with the resulting relationships.

A property, or properties, must be understood in its multiple forms, beyond the contemporary meaning of an individual, modern, exclusive and supposedly “perfect” property.  Access to and control of land transforms relations between groups socially involved in the sharing of a non-reproducible good in nature. These relations are expressed in the form of community ties and/or the exploitation of the populations involved.

The clashes in defense of a particular conception of property also reveal various attempts to enshrine the right to exclude, to the detriment of others. The right to individual property, therefore, is based, above all, on the possibility of denying many others that constitute the property itself.

Moreover, it is essential to consider the phenomenon of modern slavery, and the consequent compulsory crossing of the Atlantic, with its consequences both for the relations of the possession and ownership of slaves as property and their territorial implications. Enslaved and freed persons built strategies by forging alliances for survival tied to various usufruct practices. Many of the property rights traditions originating in Europe were resignified in the New World, with the re-appropriation, or even transformation, of interpretations of those rights.

We will accept papers which analyze:

a) the senses of ownership and access to land of indigenous peoples before and after the arrival of Europeans

b) the processes of transformation of perceptions about landed property rights and their resignifications and/or re-appropriations of rights, both in time and in space;

c) the strategies used by colonizers and/or the colonized in defense of their interpretations of property rights.

S40 – Maize for the people. Cultivation, consumption and trade in the northeastern Mediterranean (16th-19th c.)

Luca Mocarelli1, Aleksander Panjek2

1 University of Milan Bicocca, Department of Economics, Management & Statistics
2 University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities

Introduction This panel is a first attempt to examine one of the most important and yet little studied aspects of the Colombian exchange: the introduction and diffusion of maize in some countries of Southern Europe. While the potato and its impact on European history have been examined in quite some detail, thanks to a large number of articles and monographs (McNeill 1948; Langer 1975; Salaman, 1985; Komlos 1998; McNeill 1999; Ó Gráda, Paping, Vanhaute 2007; Gentilcore 2012), the same cannot be said for maize – despite the incontrovertible importance achieved by this crop as a foodstuff in many rural areas of the Mediterranean area, as it is probably best known for Italy (Alfani, Mocarelli, Strangio 2017, 46-47). But even in the case of Italy, we can mostly find only short contributions or some agile syntheses (Mantelli 1998; Doria 2002; Finzi 2009; Gasparini 2015). However, much the same may be said with regard to other Mediterranean regions and countries since the historiographical ‘state of the art’ regarding maize is quite similar if not even more scarce. Apart from the generally unsatisfying number of specific regional studies on maize in the earlier stages of its diffusion, one thing is certainly even more true: we miss a comprehensive vision and a comparative perspective on this process that would embrace the whole of southern Europe.

For this reason, this session collects contributions, each with a specific geographical scope. By combining regional historiographical reviews and case-studies and researches, it gathers and offers a wider spectre of information about maize introduction, diffusion in the regions surrounding the Adriatic sea. The idea was to embrace the Adriatic area from the Alps to the Danube, asking the scholars to tackle the same issues in order to produce a steady basis for a truly comparative work, that are:

  • the chronology and geography of the diffusion of maize;
  • the reasons of greater or lesser success of maize;
  • the supposed dichotomy self-consumption versus market;
  • nutrition and demographic impact.

The panel presents contributions from a book published in the SSSH – Slovene Scientific Series in Humanities, University of Primorska Press.

S41 – Mechanisms of food preparedness and narratives of hunger in 20th century Western Europe

Camilla Eriksson1, Carin Martiin2

1 Swedish Defence Research Agency
2 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Introduction Food preparedness and hunger can be seen as two sides of the same coin; on the one side about experiences, memories and repeatedly told narratives on hunger, food rationing or food shortages. On the other side about preparations made and mechanisms set up to avoid hunger. This session focuses on mechanisms of food preparedness and narratives of hunger in 20th century Western Europe, where (lack of) food was a crucial factor in many of the century’s crises and catastrophes – politically and in everyday life. What kind of mechanisms were enacted by authorities and the state to cope with or prevent food shortages? How did these relate to different political systems in form of dictatorships versus democracies? What kind of political ambitions were dominating, e.g. the ambiguous goal of achieving ‘self-sufficiency’ in food? Moreover, how did preparedness plans change in relation to how food production systems and other parts of the food chain changed over time? How do narratives on hunger relate to food preparedness and access to food in crises? What discordances can be seen in the way histories of food preparedness and hunger are commemorated? What kind of strategies did ordinary men and women resort to coping during the food crises (for example, practices such as substitute preparation, black market, or smuggling)? What was the role played by women in food preparedness in times of scarcity and famine? The session is based on papers about Germany, Francoist Spain and Cold War Sweden.

S42 – Meet the author: Paul Brassley et al. The real agricultural revolution – Farmers, large and small, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Richard W Hoyle1

1 University of Reading

Introduction Farmers have received much attention from agricultural and rural historians than might be assumed. In part this is because most farmers left very little in the way in records – and in many cases, the little they kept were regarded as ephemeral. But farmers have failed poorly in a competition with landowners for the historian’s attention, and historians rooted in the left have often seen them as the enemy, the oppressor of the working man on the land. Yet it was farmers who made the tripartite system of English capitalism work as both tenants and employers.

This session is a celebration of one of the most eagerly anticipated work s on farmers of recent years. Paul Brassley et al., The real agricultural revolution gets round the lack of farmer’s records by combining the Farm Management Survey with the recollections of farmers. It is hoped that copies of the book will be available at the conference. Paul Brassley will present a foretaste of it and consider a key question: technical innovation by farmers. He will examine the variations between farmers in their adoption of technical change, using a sample from the south-west of England. The results highlight the significance of tenurial change, specialisation, access to capital and generational succession in determining when farmers adopted new technologies and explaining why some farmers left agriculture altogether.

Paul Brassley is supported by three discussants all exploring this pivotal but overlooked category of people. Richard W. Hoyle will, under the heading ‘The prosepography of nineteenth-century English farming communities, c. 1840-1920’ discuss the possibilities for historians of farming in the sources which have been put online, over the past decade and offer a worked example from north Shropshire of how farmers entered and left the business. The census, newspapers and directories will be used.  Catherine Glover will, under the heading ‘Smallholding in “A country fit for heroes”, 1916-26 discuss the issue that the development of smallholdings in England and Wales, at the end of the nineteenth century, was seen as the answer to a number of rural problems including labour supply and rural depopulation. She looks at the way in which smallholdings were seen as a means of recruiting the next generation of farmers by offering opportunities to ex-servicemen after the First World War. Finally, James Bowen,  will examine the transformation of commercial poultry farming in Britain and the paradox it created of farmers without land. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was small-scale, often being a sideline activity for the farmer’s wife, with poultry and eggs being sold with milk or exchanged for groceries. In the interwar period poultry became an increasingly specialised branch of farming with the emergence of specialist poultry producers and the establishment of co-operative marketing societies.

S43 – Meet the Authors: Oxford Handbook of Agricultural History

Ernst Langthaler1, Jeannie Whayne2

1 Johannes Kepler University LInz
2 University of Arkansas

Introduction This session will introduce the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Agricultural History. The editor will outline the general concept of the volume and, together with three of its authors, present specific aspects among the thirty-five chapters. Two discussants will assess the volume and selected chapters from multiple perspectives. The idea for the volume arose from the editor’s attendance at EURHO meetings and conversations with many other attendees – conversations that demonstrated the connectedness of agriculture across the globe. There are many agricultural historiographical traditions within geographic regions across the world that intersect either directly in the historiography or indirectly in subject matter. This volume is designed to promote a broader perspective on subjects often discussed in geographic isolation. Authors were invited to eschew the restriction of local or national boundaries and write within a comparative framework. In that sense, the volume promotes the development of a global agricultural historiography. Nevertheless, the volume also serves the purpose of show casing the historiographical trends on topics already written in a global framework, exposing a new generation of scholars to those debates.

The chapters are divided into four sections. Part I, Timeless Essentials, introduces the crucial elements of agricultural production as they change over time. It begins with the basic material ingredients necessary for agriculture to exist: soil fertility and seeds. It proceeds from there to include another basic staple, livestock, and the challenges that have plagued farmers from agriculture’s earliest appearance: pests, epidemics and other biological contestations. From there the volume moves to the human component: labor, the peasantry, and the role of women in agriculture. Part II, Modern Essentials, captures the fundamental differences of modern production methods. It includes chapters on mechanization, scientific agriculture, and expert networks, among others. Part III, Exemplary Commodities, speaks to how issues raised in Parts I and II work in concert. This section consists of chapters on various commodities from food products like wheat, corn, and rice, to non-food items like cotton, tobacco, and sericulture. Part IV, Key Transitions, probes watershed moments and includes chapters covering the current debate over the Neolithic Revolution and its contestations, the Atlantic Plantation, and the Arab and British agricultural revolutions.

S44 – Meet-the-author: “Peasants in World History”

Eric Vanhaute1

1 Ghent University

Introduction A roundtable about the new publication of Eric Vanhaute, Peasants in World History, published by Routledge in 2021 (Themes in World History)

Peasants in World History analyzes the multiple transformations of peasant life through history by focusing on three primary areas: the organization of peasant societies, their integration within wider societal structures, and the changing connections between local, regional, and global processes.

Peasants have been a vital component in human history over the last 10,000 years, with nearly one-third of the world’s population still living a similar lifestyle today. Their role as rural producers of ever-new surpluses instigated complex and often-opposing processes of social and spatial change throughout the world. Eric Vanhaute frames this social change in a story of evolving peasant frontiers. These frontiers provide a global comparative-historical lens to look at the social, economic, and ecological changes within village-systems, agrarian empires, and global capitalism. Bringing the story of the peasantry up through the modern period and looking to the future, the author offers a succinct overview with students in mind.

This book is recommended reading to anyone interested in the history and future of peasantries, and is a valuable addition to undergraduate and graduate courses in World History, Global Economic History, and Rural Sociology.

Eric Vanhaute is Professor in Economic and Social History and World History at Ghent University, Belgium. He has published extensively on agrarian and rural history, the history of labor markets and social inequality, and world history.

S45 – Meet-the-author: Zsuzsanna Varga, The Hungarian Agricultural Miracle? – Sovietization and Americanization in a Communist Country

Zsuzsanna Varga1

1 Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest

Introduction Abundance or shortage in food supply has been a fateful and strategic issue throughout human history. This was no less true in the post-1945 period, when food played a decisive role alongside weapons and ideologies in the competition between capitalism and socialism. In socialist Eastern Europe, queuing for food was the everyday experience everywhere – except Hungary. Zsuzsanna Varga’s monograph (The Hungarian Agricultural Miracle?  ̶  Sovietization and Americanization in a Communist Country. Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series, Lexington Books, 2020.) presents a historical analysis of the ’Hungarian agricultural miracle’, a successful hybrid agriculture created by dual transfer processes of ’sovietization’ and ’americanization’.

The „Meet-the-author” session gives a good opportunity on the one hand to discuss the methodological novelties of her book, on the other hand to identify the factors influencing the success or failure of economic transfers between countries with different political systems. Three prepared comments will be given by Hans Jörgensen, University of  Umeå,  Ildikó Asztalos Morell, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Nigel Swain, University of Liverpool.

S46 – Microcredit as an Economic Rural Resource. Comparing Models in the Historical Perspective

Paola Avallone1, Martín L. E. Wasserman2

1 Italian National Council of Research CNR – Institute of Studies on the Mediterranean ISMed
2 CONICET-UBA, República Argentina

Introduction Credit is the lifeblood for economies. A wide range of financial institutions and intermediaries, from relational networks to modern banking, has historically offered mechanisms to feed the economies by means of credit. However, financial services are not accessible to everyone.  “Financial exclusion” (Leyshon and Thrift, 1995) allowed to understand the broader difficulty of an increasingly growing segment of the population to access the main financial services and products (Kempson and Whyley, 1999). Today, financial exclusion is widely recognized as one of the parts that make up a wider social exclusion.
Case studies showed that, in situations of structural poverty, when financial institutions that provide consumer credit intervened on the horizontal networks of cooperation, the result was not always a reversal of poverty, but rather an appropriation of community surpluses through the financial channel (Feldman, 2013; Gago, 2015). In this sense, it is still necessary to rethink the ways of “financial inclusion” to stimulate the economy of the excluded social sectors.
Financial exclusion and microfinance, however, are not products of the contemporary world: history shows that over time there have been parts of the active population in certain geographical areas falling in the so-called group of conjunctural poor, who were momentarily expelled from the economic system. If not adequately supported by welfare state policies, the risk of falling into the category of structural poor was very high. In the past, however, in the absence of a “welfare state” as we understand it today, there was a plethora of “charitable” institutions that assisted both the structural poor and the economic ones. And, in the absence of a specialized credit system and faced with the ecclesiastical prohibition of lending money as it was considered a sin, in central Italy, starting from the fifteenth century, the Monti di Pietà (pawnshops) spread among the various charitable institutions. These institutions offered their service to the people who were temporarily in financial difficulty and could not turn to private bankers, who practiced high interest rates. Most of the monti di pietà were born and expanded in urban areas, and were aimed at those who had the opportunity to present a real collateral; while the monti frumentari were the expression of rural areas where there were small farmers, often tenants of farming land, who did not have seeds to sow, and had no collateral to offer.
The objective of this session is to highlight the origins of the European culture of “credit assistance” with the search for the roots of the economic resources of microfinance and microcredit, and the analysis of their transmission to the present. By investigating the forms of social protection and solidarity credit that were developed within urban and rural societies in Italy, starting from the late Middle Ages and then spreading throughout Europe and into the contemporary world, we want to evaluate and trace a demarcation between various microfinance models following the current economic crisis.

S47 – New Evidence about Women, Rural Places, and Gender Relations during the Nineteenth Century

Debra Reid1

1 The Henry Ford

Introduction Primary sources yield anecdotal evidence that, when synthesized and analyzed, can yield new understanding of the power of the individual as well as the trends within rural and farm society. Each cache of letters, or new-found diary, or census record or published directory offers opportunities for new analysis, testing of existing interpretations, and presentation of a new hypothesis. Panelists will share evidence they have analyzed and new findings they discern during this session, “New Evidence about Women, Rural Places, and Gender Relations during the Nineteenth Century.” The first paper focuses on Swedish immigrants to Illinois and the changing work routines among younger women in the Bishop Hill Colony during the 1850s. Irene Flygare and Marja Erikson posit that communal land ownership eliminated the incentive of families (specifically young married women) to do field work because the work did not increase the family’s ability to accumulate land. Katherine Jellison documents how women and men in one family sought a common goal between the 1850s and 1880s. Each retreated from the urban and industrial to the rural and bucolic, but gender affected the degree to which they realized their goal. Debra Reid considers how women of rural and farm backgrounds adjusted to a life in the shadow of the city that included selling their produce, flowers, and fruit at Detroit’s Central Market during the 19th century. Each speaker will summarize relevant historiography, will explain the new understanding they gain about rural women based on the new evidence they analyze, and will indicate the ways that this offers opportunity to reassess rural women’s experiences as immigrants.

S48 – New model peasant. Income integration in peasant economies in central and eastern Europe

Aleksander Panjek1, Jesper Larsson2, 3

1 University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities
2 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
3 Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Sweden

Introduction Income integration based on the peasants’ engagement in non-agrarian sectors is a prominent and widespread feature in the history of the European countryside. While listing a multitude of activities outside the narrow scope of farm management aimed at self-consumption, prevailing interpretations emphasize how survival was the goal of peasant economies and societies. The “Integrated peasant economy” is a new paradigm that considers the peasant economy as a comprehensive system of agrarian and non-agrarian activities, disclosing how peasants demonstrate agency, aspirations and the ability to proactively change and improve their economic and social condition.

All stages of the internationally and comparatively based research on the Integrated peasant economy (IPE) concept have been so far presented at previos Rural History conferences. After having been successfully applied to the Alpine and Scandinavian areas (mainly Slovenia, Italy and Sweden), the research expanded to test the IPE concept on the “eastern half ” of Europe, involving case studies on Finland, Poland, the Chech Republic, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Ukraine and Russia. While enhancing our knowledge and questioning the assumption that central and eastern Europe were “different”, we tackle the relative underrepresentation of this part of Europe in international scholarly literature on rural and economic history. The panel presents contributions from a book on this topic that is being prepared for the Rural History in Europe series at Brepols.


S49 – New Perspectives on Grain Storage

Friederike Scholten-Buschhoff1, Ulrich Pfister1

1 University of Münster

Introduction Food storage is still on the international agenda. There has been a number of significant new publications in recent years, particularly on grain storage (cf. Ronsijn/Mignemi 2019). Following on from this, this panel deals with central questions about granaries: What different storage locations are there and which storing techniques are useful? In addition, the decision-makers are at the centre: Who are they and what motivates them to store (or not to)? The following three micro-studies on the Italian, English and German regions answer these questions from different perspectives while using explicit storage information:
Laura Prosperi (Milan) will discuss the topic of grain losses during storage and techniques to cope with: Although grain losses have always been part of the storing process, so far qualitative and quantitative losses have got scanty attention by historians. Not only extraordinary but also ordinary losses played a role in the wheat quality variation and in shaping the wheat standard idea of ‘quality’. A well-documented journey around a wide range of grain loss causes – from pests to grain stock diseases– will draw a scenario of dearth and its strategies of coping with the structural vulnerability of pre-industrial storing.
Liam Brunt (Bergen) and Edmund Cannon (Bristol) discuss what probate inventories can tell us about grain storage: One of the most important functions of grain markets is to ensure a steady supply of grain to consumers in the periods between annual harvests, which relies upon the effective storage of grain. Unfortunately, very little direct information is available on grain storage and most empirical analyses of grain markets rely entirely upon information about prices. In this paper, we analyse the grain holdings in English probate inventories in the seventeenth century to obtain qualitative information on how and where grain was stored.
Friederike Scholten-Buschhoff (Münster) questions the motivation behind manorial grain stocks in Rhineland and Westphalia 1650-1850: With the evaluation of short- and long-term grain storage on noble manors, located in the region of the Rhineland and Westphalia, a range of open questions about aristocratic management are answered. The analysis of explicit storage information, including associated details on storage locations, losses and motives behind storage decisions, provides insights into the aristocratic risk- and profit-thinking. In the meantime, this paper is also a valuable contribution to research about supplying the rural population.

S50 – New Perspectives on Hunting in Pre-Industrial Europe

Tuija Kirkinen1, Clas Tollin2, Jesper Larsson2

1 University of Helsinki, Finland
2 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Introduction Hunting has been an important part of rural life throughout Europe and can be roughly divided into three main types. Firstly the supply hunt. Hunting for goods such as meat, furs, oil, etc. This hunting dominated the livelihoods in ancient times, long before the agriculture revolution, and has existed in different forms up to present times. Secondly, hunting for protection. Includes hunting as part of the protection of domestic animals from predators. This kind of hunting also includes hunting that compete with humans for the same food resource, such as cormorants, foxes and birds of prey. Thirdly is hunting for pleasure. From the Middle Ages and onwards, pleasure hunting was conducted by a royal and aristocratic elite in Europe. It was conspicuous hunting and the prey itself was of minor importance. Part of this hunting was falconry and fenced deer-gardens. Wild animals were considered the elite’s possession and hunting an exclusive pursuit. The ordinary man and women were excluded.

Hunting is a broad concept and the purpose of hunting has changed through time, space and social groups. The aim of the session is to highlight new perspectives and contemporary research about different social, ecological and economic perspectives on hunting in pre-industrial Europe.

S51 – New theoretical approaches to pre-industrial rural household labour

Carolina Uppenberg1, James Fisher2, Martin Andersson3

1 Economic history, Lund University
2 Early modern work and poverty, University of Exeter, UK
3 Agrarian history, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Introduction In pre-industrial societies, the household was the main site of production and a pivotal form of labour organization. Consequently, rural dynamics must be understood by analyzing the social role of different labouring groups and their relation to each other: masters and mistresses, children and foster-children, servants, apprentices and occasional labourers, as well as comparing how rural labour was organized differently within landed, semi-landless and landless households. In this session, we will take advantage of theoretical perspectives in gender history, labour history, agrarian political economy and development studies in order to expand our understanding of rural household labour organization.

The number of studies of women’s and children’s contribution both to pre-industrial economic growth and to household living standards have expanded rapidly over the last decades. The results are unequivocal in illustrating how rural household members had different work tasks, different statuses and were subject to different legal restrictions. Yet, the pre-industrial agrarian household is surrounded by a host of assumptions, not least concerning the gender division of labour, such that it is rarely subject to in-depth studies of its internal power dimensions. Similarly, to the extent that household labour is studied, it is usually in relation to market dynamics rather than the extensive set of labour laws that regulated the distribution of household labour.

Following the admonitions recently (2019) delivered by Jane Whittle, we believe that the study of pre-modern rural household labour organization has a lot to gain from studies of modern internal household labour organization and recent theoretical advances made in gender history, labour history, and sociological theories of power and resistance in work relations: the division of labour in a household is never a natural order but instead structured by dimensions of power, based on gender, age, nationality, social status etc, and shaped by external pressures from community and state. Treating the pre-industrial household as a coherent entity with a single common interest not only lacks empirical precision, but also fails to make use of the theoretical advancements in the history of labour. In this session, we want to combine empirical studies of various types of pre-industrial rural households, and the labour organization in which they were engaged, with theoretical perspectives addressing both internal and external power relations. The theoretical perspectives may include, but are not limited to, theories on gender, free/unfree labour, as well as economic theories of agrarian change. We welcome contributions studying all time periods or societies that may be regarded as pre-industrial.

Examples of questions that may be addressed in the individual papers are: What role did legislation have in defining and structuring the division of labour between household members? How did gendered divisions of labour interact with other dimensions such as legal position, ethnicity, age, civil status? How did external demands and extraction of household labour or resources influence the household labour organization? How did different kinds of pluri-activity and/or proto-industrialisation interact with or change household power dynamics?

S52 – Organising and Practicing Seasonal Labour: Rural Livelihoods, Mobility and Regulation (1920s-1940s and Today)

Jessica Richter1

1 Institute of Rural History, St. Pölten/Austria

Introduction When European governments temporarily closed their national borders due to the Covid 19-situation in 2020, migrant seasonal labourers in agriculture received unprecedented attention from Western European media, at least in the German- and English-speaking countries. Audiences were made aware of these workers’ crucial contributions to secure harvests as much as of their precarious working and living conditions. Their situation has not improved until today.
Such seasonal work contracts are far from new even though farm work changed profoundly in the 20th century. The same is true for the regulation of labour relations and mobility. Particularly in the first half of the century, arable farming demanded additional labour inputs during seasonal peaks. Many workers lived in the vicinity of farms, others migrated within a region or even over long distances to supplement their livelihoods.
Landless rural populations, women, men as well as children, often had to rely on various activities to make a living. Simultaneously or alternately they combined different means of income, from subsistence work to positions in service and different forms of gainful work. This often impacted on compulsory schooling e.g. when older children were largely ‘freed’ from tuition between spring and autumn to help out in the family and/or at nearby farms. Making ends meet frequently meant moving around, like commuting back and forth to seasonal and other temporary occupations. Farm work was, though important, not the only form of rural seasonal labour in the first half of the 20th century. Many workers were employed e.g. in melioration or road works.
After WW I, new institutions and tools to regulate (agricultural) labour mobility emerged in the international arena. On the one hand, European countries increasingly restricted labour market access for non-citizens to ‘protect’ domestic labour markets. On the other hand, they closed bilateral agreements to recruit seasonal agricultural labourers. These contracts introduced new minimum standards and labour rights as formulated by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Furthermore, states invested in networks of public labour intermediation to centrally and universally organise job search and employment on a national level. Labour offices often targeted rural workforces in specific ways to ensure their availability for farm work.
These bodies and measures re/produced new hierarchies between workers. Labourers and employers, however, often counteracted official regulation and programmes. Seasonal labourers, for instance, avoided public labour intermediation and recruitment schemes, left employment in favour of better opportunities elsewhere or protested conditions. Some non-citizens failed to leave the country after their contracts had expired. They accepted irregular employment; others took advantage of legal grey areas.
This session aims to discuss how (supra-)state intervention, recruitment agents and labourers’ practices to counteract, oppose or adhere to official measures structured and changed seasonal labour relations. In this context, the contributions analyse power relations and inequalities between different actors involved. The session deals with the interwar years that were constitutive for the regulation of temporary labour migration at least until the 1970s. It extends its focus to the 1940s and current seasonal migrations into agriculture in Western Europe.

S53 – Public intervention and the birth of the new Viticulture and Winemaking in Europe (end 19th- 20th Centuries)

Luciano Maffi1, Dario Dall’Osa2

1 Catholic University – Milan
2 University of Bari

Introduction This panel is addressed to studies concerning European wines and the prosecution of the panel organised in EURHO Leuven 2017 and Paris 2019. Researches, papers and discussions related to these latter panels were the base for the book by Conca Messina S.A., Le Bras S., Tedeschi P., Vaquero Piñeiro M. (eds.), A History of Wine in Europe, 19th to 20th Centuries, 1, Winegrowing and Regional Features, 2, Markets and Trade and Regulation of Quality, London/Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

The aims of the new proposed panel are:

a) To investigate the role of public institutions (regional, national or the Common Agricultural Policy) for the transfer of knowledge and information regarding the new production system in the oenological sector: schools, lessons, conferences, bulletins/journals etc. The main focus concerns the relevance of the education relating to ampelography and oenology for the improvement and diffusion of new modern methods of vine-growing and winemaking as well as conservation of the must and wine in new barrels, bottles and cellars. Besides, panel also wants to observe the evolution in different European wine regions of the oenological education and changes regarding the students in the three steps of their vocational training: the elementary level (lessons for peasants’ sons), the secondary school (professional courses about the viticulture and winemaking) and the university (studies on the oenology in agrarian departments and faculties).

b) To investigate the role the public institutions (regional, national or the Common Agricultural Policy) in favour of the modernization of viticulture and winemaking: they financed and protected the national viticulture and attempted to improve the diffusion in the international markets. They also promoted the European wines in the world and then faced the competition of the wines produced in California, South America, and, more recently, in South Africa and Australia. Finally, they organised the intervention against the diseases which invested European vines in the second half of the 19th century and the successive improvement of the quality of new European vineyards during the 20th century.

c) To investigate the role of the public institutions (regional, national or the Common Agricultural Policy) for the improvement of the quality: producers progressively substituted the mellow and heavy-bodied wine (mainly addressed to taverns) with some high quality wine (sold in bottles indicating the origins/characters of the product). These changes are linked to the progressive globalisation of the markets for best wines and to the adoption of new technologies for cellars and winemaking.

Papers participating at this panel will in particular focus their attention on the period including the last decades of the 19th century and the 20th century. They will allow to make some comparisons between the different European oenological areas and to improve the knowledge of the evolution of European rural society during the analysed period.

S54 – Re-inventing rurality? Contemporary debates and historical perspectives

Dietlind Hüchtker1

1 University of Vienna

Introduction The pressing issues of the present, such as climate protection, populism, animal breeding/animal law or the inadequate equipment with new technologies (lack of digital or transport infrastructures) are to a large extent linked to rural areas. At the same time, rural areas still appear as an ideal alternative to urban (post)modernity. At the beginning of the 21st century, rural areas are often at the center of debates – both as spaces of stagnation that are to be left and as spaces in which new social concepts are being developed. Though the debates on “the rural” pick up contemporary problems that are not new at all. Rural exodus, deserted villages, the notion of traditionalism and backwardness on the one hand and idealization, utopia and space of a better world on the other are not new at all.

The panel should bring together papers on the meanings of rurality in different places and times. This could mean negotiations of the borders between urban and rural, rurality and nature.

S55 – Representations of the Countryside

Sarah Holland1, Rosemary Shirley2

1 University of Nottingham
2 University of Leicester

Introduction Representations of the countryside have always been varied, ranging from the idyllic to the highly emotive. Some representations are more omnipresent whereas others are context specific. They can be found in many places including popular culture, art and literature and the media. Ultimately, contrasting representations of the countryside can have a powerful impact on how people perceive, imagine and use rural spaces.

This session seeks to examine how and why these representations of the countryside are constructed, and to compare and contrast different types of representations. It will consider the role different representations have played in shaping perceptions, creating meaning and determining understanding of the countryside, rural places and rural people. It is particularly interested in how representations of the countryside are inter-connected with local, regional, national and international events (including industrialisation, globalisation, sustainability, Covid-19), and how representations that are products of a specific time, place or context are understood or perceived outside of those chronological, geographic or contextual frameworks. The panel aims to contribute new and international perspectives on this subject, comparing and contrasting representations of the countryside produced in different places, at different times and in different contexts, and for different reasons. Contributions relating to all nations and time periods are welcome.

S56 – Rural history as rural labour history: a Mediterranean perspective on social and economic change?

Niccolò Mignemi1, Giulio Ongaro2

1 Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France
2 Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Introduction The “meet the author” session aims at discussing a hypothetical specificity of a part of the Italian rural history, that is a particular focus on agricultural workers and labour organisation in rural areas. Thanks to the activism of the members of the research group “Rural labour and workers” of the Italian Society of Labour History, in 2020 three publications have been released: the book edited by Niccolò Mignemi, Claudio Lorenzini and Luca Mocarelli Pluriattività rurale e lavoro agricolo in età contemporanea (secoli XIX-XX), the dossier n. 2020/25 of the review Geshichte der Alpen – Histoire des Alpes – Storia delle Alpi edited by Luca Mocarelli and Giulio Ongaro on Pluriactivité – Pluriattività – Pluriaktivität and the forum in the review Quaderni Storici, n. 2019/2, edited by Giacomo Bonan and Giulio Ongaro on Microstoria, protoindustria, saperi. Ricordando Carlo Poni.

These book and journal themed sections, and especially the fact that they are all the result of conference and seminars in Italy, testify on the one hand the broader dynamism of Italian rural history – that, it must be underlined, is not certainly limited to the recalled scholars and ventures – and on the other hand also a peculiar attention to the labour dynamics and their connection to rural economic and social change. Recalling the relevant European debates in the 1980s on pluriactivity in the rural areas and on the proto-industrial model in the countryside, this inclination does not seem a real newness; however, is it an Italian specificity? To what extent? Which is the role of these topics in other national environments?

Recent studies on free and unfree labour and inequality patterns have given new attention to the diversity of rural workers in a long-term perspective. At the same time, research on rural landscapes and alternative agricultures have shown that labour organisation could be a powerful – individual and collective – resource in the development processes, and not just a tool to counterbalance the lack of land and capital. Through the point of view of labour, it is thus possible to question the place of agriculture among other rural and non-rural activities, the influence of traditional savoir-faire on technical innovations, the connections between different agrosystems in terms of seasonal activities and labour migrations. Italy and, more generally, the Mediterranean region are special observatories to question these dynamics given the great diversity of their local environments and cropping systems.

Besides the editors of the above-mentioned books and reviews, scholars from Italy, Spain, France, Slovenia, Switzerland and Sweden will discuss these issues.

Attending authors and editors: Luca Mocarelli (University of Milan – Bicocca, Italy), Niccolò Mignemi (CNRS, LIED UMR8236, France), Giulio Ongaro (University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy).

Commentators: Marco Armiero (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden), Anne-Lise Head-König (Université de Genève, Switzerland), Gabriel Jover Avellà (Universitat de Girona, Spain), Aleksander Panjek (University of Primorska, Slovenia).

Other commentators from different European and non-European countries will be invited if the panel meet-the author is accepted.

S57 – Rural Museums Session 1: Museums and collections and the production of local histories and historical knowledge

Oliver Douglas1, 2

1 Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading (UK)
2 International Association of Agricultural Museums

Introduction This proposal is the first part of a suggested double session, which connects to the work of the ICOM-Affiliated International Association of Agricultural Museums (see also Rural Museums Session 2). It seeks to highlight the vital role of museums and collections. It will celebrate the potential of local, rural, and agricultural materials housed in these institutions for the development and dissemination of rural histories in Europe and beyond. These sessions aim to build on a museum-focussed keynote session at Rural History 2015 (Girona), and on prior and subsequent contributions and visits linked to the role, value, and importance of such institutions during Rural History 2013 (Bern), Rural History 2019 (Paris), and other EURHO conferences.

This session will explore four discrete case studies that showcase the vital role of agricultural and rural museums and collections in the safeguarding, development, and production of local histories and historical knowledge. By taking recent examples of the use of museum holdings and other forms of primary collection materials by historians, these examples will together reveal how hitherto underexplored and marginalized local materials housed in small or peripheral organisations and sites can and should play a more significant role in the production of rural history. The session will also provide practical advice from active researchers on how to access and make use of these vital resources, as well as creative examples of how to incorporate material culture and other museum-based local history materials and sources into the histories they have produced. The value of local studies archive and library approaches have long been recognised and celebrated but the role of rural, regional, local, and village museums as well as other less formal collections in the production of mainstream historical accounts is often overlooked. As such, this session will seek to emphasise the important contribution that rural museums, collections, and their holdings can make across four key areas: (1) museums and collections as places for gathering testimony, accruing archives, material experimentation, and for making local history possible; (2) museums and collections as spaces for engaging local communities and people in their own rural past; (3) museums and collections as places that serve to connect local microhistories with regional, national, or global narratives; (4) museums and collections as essential ingredients of a robust future for the study and discovery of rural history.

[If this session is accepted we will explore the potential for The MERL (@TheMERL) to live-tweet elements of it in order to help illustrate the vital and engaging role of rural museums and the potential for local microhistories to resonate with wide audiences. The MERL is a globally-recognised leader in social media engagement with a current audience of 150,000+ followers].

S58 – Rural Museums Session 2: Rural and agricultural museums as sites for connecting past with present

Oliver Douglas1, 2

1 Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading (UK)
2 International Association of Agricultural Museums

Introduction This proposal is the second part of a suggested double session, which connects to the work of the ICOM-Affiliated International Association of Agricultural Museums (see also Rural Museums Session 1). It seeks to highlight the vital role of museums and collections. It will celebrate the potential of local, rural, and agricultural materials housed in these institutions for the development and dissemination of rural histories in Europe and beyond. These sessions aim to build on a museum-focussed keynote session at Rural History 2015 (Girona), and on prior and subsequent contributions and visits linked to the role, value, and importance of such institutions during Rural History 2013 (Bern), Rural History 2019 (Paris), and other EURHO conferences.

This session will explore the ways in which museums can serve as valuable sites for connecting rural history with contemporary ideas, challenges, issues, and communities. As rural historians, we are driven increasingly to find pathways to social impact, routes to more powerful forms of public engagement, and contexts for wider dissemination of the narratives we research and generate. Museums can serve as useful facilitators, agents, and venues for the extension of this work. In many cases, such experiences also serve to challenge and strengthen the histories we produce. Museums can help us to find spaces and places – both online and in-gallery – for collaborative exploration of the past, linking key themes and narratives to contemporary debates and discourse. In the museum world, collections and programmes of public activity are increasingly used as contexts for social and cultural activism or for forms of encounter with major contemporary issues. Rural museums and historians have also begun to make use of these same meeting points. Museums and collections not only serve to support research environments but to provide opportunities for other forms of activity that enhance and highlight the work of rural historians. The four papers of which this session is comprised will offer different reflections on the ways in which rural and agricultural museums can serve as sites for engagement between past and present. These case studies will focus on prescient, significant, and urgent themes of current importance such as climate breakdown and environment, human and animal health, systems of food production and trade, and decolonisation.

[If this session is accepted we will explore the potential for The MERL (@TheMERL) to live-tweet elements of it in order to help illustrate the vital and engaging role of rural museums and the potential for such institutions to serve as a bridge between important issues of the day and the latest thinking in rural history. The MERL is a globally-recognised leader in social media engagement with a current audience of 150,000+ followers].

S59 – Rural Politics and Society: Representing and representation in rural society

Daniel Brett1, George Vascik2

1 University College London
2 Miami University (Ohio)

Introduction This panel is interested broadly in the problems associated with how rural society organized in order to advance its political, economic and social interests. Is the attempt to represent rural society destined to fail and if so why? Alternatively, what have movements and organizations that have sustained themselves done in order to do so? We pose the question – is the structure and nature of rural society inimical to effective collective action and the creation of organizations to represent rural interests?

We are interested in the reasons behind and the processes involved the formation of groups and organizations as well and their collapse. We are interested in questions of voice, agency and power within rural society and how this is reflected in rural organizations. We are keen to explore the barriers to effective collective action and representation at a local, national and international level.

We consider these to be the critical question at the heart of understanding the countryside and its relations with wider society and to understanding the dynamics of rural society itself.

We welcome papers exploring any time period or location and from any disciplinary approach. We are seeking to explore comparisons across regions and time to develop a broader picture of rural politics and the problems of representation.

As this is a broad topic we invite papers to focus on one of four potential areas:

i) Voice and Agency of rural actors (individuals and groups)

ii) The problems of collective action and representation of groups or sections of rural society (i.e. what social, political, cultural barriers hinder collective action – locally, regionally, nationally, globally?)

iii) Power structures and hierarchies – the effects of social, economic, cultural transformations upon these structures and its impact on attempts to represent the countryside

iv) Local – National interactions – how do local actors interact at a national level and with national level actors?

S60 – Rural Women and Farm Work: Gender Relations, and New Research on the Lives of 20th Century Farm Women

Debra Reid1

1 The Henry Ford

Introduction Rural and farm life changed drastically during the 20th century as technology transformed work routines in farm fields and farmhouse environs. Virtually every farm routine changed as a result. The papers in this panel focus on domestic responsibilities and women’s roles during a period of transition. Brian Cannon uses letters between a mother and daughter to document the physically exhausting routines on a family farm in Utah before the Second World War. As the children chose off-farm lives, the elders chose retirement in a growing metropolitan area. Consolidation of farms provided incentive for other changes, namely the mechanization of labor. This reduced the need for women in the fields. As women’s responsibilities shifted on the farm, away from field labor and away from constant demands of food production, processing, and preservation, many women secured off-farm jobs. This diversified the farm income but did little to sustain women’s investment in agriculture, proper. Exceptions existed, as Margreet van der Burg and Liskje Flapper, explore among farm women in the Netherlands who became more invested in their farm dairies, milking more cows and pursuing education in dairy science. Jeannie Whayne explores how gender continues to affect farm ownership expectations, pressures, and opportunities in Arkansas during the late-20th and into the early 21st century. Finally, many women, financial partners of farming husbands or owners-operators themselves, became indispensable to farm organizing. They contributed their perspectives to organizations that may have grudgingly accepted women’s influence, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, but they also threw themselves, heart and soul, into the life or death struggle to save the family farm, as Pam Riney-Kehrberg documents in her paper on farm women and the Farm Crisis in Iowa. It seems that, women were and remain indispensable in rural contexts because of the many responsibilities they bear.

S61 – Rurality, Literacy, and Democracy: Southern Europe in the 1st half of the 20th century

Gaetano Morese1

1 AgrHistoryLab

Introduction Rurality, Literacy, and Democracy: Southern Europe in the 1st half of the 20th century 

In the attempt to give an answer about literacy rates and levels, land structure and building democracy among the rural areas, and considering the many issues agriculture faced in history, as it is reported in the historiographical sources, the territorial dimension came out as the main indicator, giving the start to the research, between analyses, reconstructions and comparisons. In particular: 

What kind of relationship can be established between the land distribution and the rural classes’ literacy level? Which state laws and which concrete applications of them helped promote literacy in rural contexts? Which causal links can be retrieved between rural classes and literacy in the implementation and diffusion of democratic systems? 

The panel intends to analyze some example cases with a particular focus on the areas of Southern Europe, and under the perspective of the so-called Italian “questione meridionale” (the Southern question).Differences and peculiarities of some territories during the first twenty years of the 20th century are at the base of an articulation between, a northern area more industrialized and with a larger inclination towards democracy; and, a southern area with a more extended rural connotation and different levels of democratic development. Not a few times the states intervened over the times by emanating laws and dispositions which, besides favoring development and new productive processes, they also supported those educational exigences, in order to bridge the evident territorial disparities. However, it emerged that, after the 2nd World War, on the one hand, the increase of positive and negative reforms and policies accentuated the disparity, while on the other, it contributed to changing the situation between north and south of Europe.  

Through the elaboration of quantitative data, and the analyses of the educational legislations, policies, and institutional and rural transformations, the panel aims at outlining those elements and factors that characterized Southern Europe during the 1st half of the 20th century, with special attention to those aspects of a more rural connotation. We encourage other scholars and academics to take part to the panel with further comparative contributions that don’t limit themselves to Northern Europe, but that could also embrace North Africa and the nearest eastern territories, according to a conception of “Mediterranean Europe between past and present continuities and breaches.

S62 – Seeds and agricultural changes in Europe (XV-XX centuries)

Carlos Manuel Faísca1, Alberto González1, Dulce Freire1

1 ReSEED Project, University of Coimbra

Introduction For centuries agriculture was the main sector of economic activity. For this reason, studying the changes of Agriculture has become a recurring subject of History. This topic has been explained under different points of view, either isolated or through combined perspectives. Therefore, there are social and institutional approaches that focus on the action of public or private organizations, social groups and traditions; economic perspectives, by analysing elements such as prices, labour or land; environmental approaches, around climate and soil issues; and innovation ones, such as the introduction of fertilisers or machinery.  However, within the changes in Agriculture, the biotechnological innovations (methods that involves the use of living organisms to create or modify plants and animals) has been little studied. In the United States, since early 2000s, some scholars started to include seed selection and plant improvement into the explanation of agriculture productivity growth (Olmstead, Rhode, 2002; Koppenburg, 2004). Also, about Russia and Eastern Europe, there are some academic production on this subject (Borojevic, Borojevic, 2005; Morgounov, 2010; Strazdina 2012). However, for Western Europe this kind of analysis has deserved few approaches (Pujol-Adreu, 2011). Additionally, the majority of the studies on biotechnology have focused more on the action of formal organizations, either public or private, than on the role of farmers, as well as their scope regards only 19th and, above all, 20th centuries.

Therefore, this session aims to host papers that can contribute to build a long-term perspective about the impact biological innovations connected to agricultural change. The approaches can be either in modern or contemporary historic eras, studying seed selection and plant improvement, the introduction of new vegetable species and the economic, environmental and social consequences of it in Europe. Preference will be given to proposals that focus on farmer selection, especially in early modern era including the impact of the cultivation of new crops since the 15th century. Nevertheless, latter chronologies and/or approaches on the role of formal organizations can also be accepted. Papers on methods and sources that can help to clarify these questions are welcome.

S63 – Social conflicts in early modern Europe: New tools and new perspectives

Cédric Chambru1, Paul Maneuvrier-Hervieu2

1 University of Zurich
2 University of Milan

Introduction The evolution of social conflicts, their causes and consequences in early modern Europe have long been studied by historians and social scientists. This stream of literature culminated, at least with respect to France, with the seminal publication of La Rébellion française by Jean Nicolas in 2002. However, the recent advances in digital, statistical and geographic information system (GIS) tools now allow to link more easily large sets of data and can help to foster our understanding of this social phenomena.

The objective of this panel is to provide ground for new research in this field and demonstrate how tools derived from the “digital revolution” can facilitate the development of new research. One avenue is to take advantage of the increasing number of archives and printed sources digitised by local and national archives to conduct large-scale research on specific topics. Another example is the online release of the Historical Social Conflict Database (HiSCoD;, which lists nearly 10,000 episodes of social conflict and aims at facilitating future research around this topic.

This panel will focus on the evolution of social conflict in the long run. More specifically, it aims at advancing our knowledge in this area by working anew on problematic such as the evolution of living standards and social conflicts. We welcome any contribution making use of data at the local, regional or even national scale and addressing questions such as the interlink between social conflicts, climatic crises, and agricultural failures/changes; the role and the consequences of the expansion of the proto-industrialisation in the countryside with respect to social conflicts; the impact of trade and its (de-)regulation; and the local responses of government to crisis and conflict. Case studies, as well as comparative and large-N studies, are welcome.

The panel’s geographical focus is on Europe, even though we also welcome contributions on different world regions. Overall, papers in the panel will seeks to construct a better understanding of the challenges related to social and economic stress and to emphasise the historical responses they generated.

S64 – Starch: Production, commercialisation and effect on agrarian system.

Laurent Herment1, Luca Andreoni2

1 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UMR 8558, CRH EHESS/CNRS, Paris
2 Universita Politecnica delle Marche

Introduction Existing studies have largely explored the production and the commercialisation of grains, potatoes, and more generally edible carbohydrates. Yet, for centuries, grains (wheat) were used to produce starch. The same occurred with potatoes since the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century, starch was a versatile product used by several industries, in culinary art, to feed animal, etc. We could find the same versatility in the crops used as raw materials to produce starch, such as wheat, potato, rice, maize, cassava, etc., and their by-products (oilseed cakes, bran, etc.). The production of starch is also a fertile ground to observe the relation between agriculture, agro-industry and chemistry, which became crucial during the 19th century. Finally, the diversity of raw materials, from wheat to cassava, to produce starch, and its derivative products, implied a competition between plants from all over the world. This competition became more and more pronounced with the revolution of transport and the enlargement of colonial territories during the second part of the 19th century.

Until today, the literature about the history of production of starch is poor (see Burton 1948 and in Salaman, 1985 which examine briefly the production of starch from potatoes). This session aims to shed light on the farming and the processing of crops used to produce starch during the 19th and 20th  centuries. The present session will not only explore the technical and scientific issues but also the economic and social issues connected to these agro-industrial productions: prices and substitutability between different raw materials, competition between production for food and production for industrial purpose, etc. Thanks to the variety of raw materials used to produce starch, it will also be possible to compare cases from Africa, Europe, South and North America, and Asia.

S65 – The Great Depression and the rural world in South-eastern Europe; evaluating and representing the agrarian change

Catherine Brégianni1, 2

1 Academy of Athens
2 HFRI/PI Project 1310

Introduction Thematic Approach 
The Great Depression initially appeared in Europe in the form of an agrarian crisis; In the beginning of the 1930s the agrarian crisis had a general negative influence on European economies and societies, evidenced by the considerable fall in the prices of agricultural products (LoN, 1931). Especially -but not solely- the rural countries of South-Eastern Europe faced deep changes in their structures of foreign trade which were brought about by the international crisis. In the first place, the session aims to link the structures of the rural economy of the South-eastern European region (Gerschenkron, 1976) to the economic recession following the Great Depression (Mitrany 1945 & Lampe, Jackson, 1982). Secondly, a global conception is required, with regards to transnational action taken in order to tackle the new conditions in national economies based on the primary sector: for example, the Stresa Conference, in September 1932, considered means of reviving European trade (Eichengreen, 1995) in order to counterbalance the expanding economic protectionism[1], as concerns especially the tariffs and quotas on agricultural product (Kaiser, n. ed. 2015). The Stresa Conference results provide us with an image of the European rural crisis in the early 1930s (LoN, 1932), just a few steps before the generalization of economic protectionism, emphasizing primarily on the organization of the rural markets (Chatriot, Leblanc, Lynch, 2012, & Brégianni, 2019).

The Session Proposal’s Main Goals, Objectives, and Challenges

Having traced the intersections between the European interwar rural crisis and the overall economic conditions during the Great Depression, the proposed session targets the evaluation of unexplored primary sources describing the quantitative indicators in the -largely agricultural- countries of South-Eastern Europe. The aim is to associate this objective parameter with the centralized modernization policies applied in the geographical region under examination, accentuating thus the State’s intervention and role. Besides the emergence of a technocratic framework and the technical and organizational innovation, the recession provoked social responses, such as the strengthening of rural cooperatives -although, in some cases these were progressively assimilated into centralized mechanisms- or significant protest movements in rural areas. The exploration of the social impact of the crisis is then included in the Session’s goals, as is the analysis of visual representations of the interwar rural crisis: we will attempt a bottom-up interpretation, in the sense that questions arise as to how the effects of the crisis in the rural world are depicted in photography, film, and art works.As a methodological stake, the session proposes that recession phenomena in the rural world could be investigated in an interdisciplinary approach.


The research work is supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation under the “First call for HFRI Research Projects to support Faculty members and

Researchers” (Project Number 1310: Transnational Monetary and Economic Alternatives in the Interwar Politics. The 1930s Greek Crisis in the European Context). Project hosted by the Academy of Athens.

S66 – The History of Horticulture

Inger Olausson1, Matti Wiking Leino2, Magnus Bohman3, Jennifer A Jordan4

1 University of Gothenburg
2 Stockholm University
3 Umeå University
4 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Introduction The history of horticulture is a rather new research field. As such, the borders of the field are wide and this session aims to illustrate that by welcoming proposals from many disciplines. However, in order to bridge gaps and find common denominators in terms of theory, methods and sources, we especially welcome proposals that consider long-term, comparative and inter-disciplinary perspectives. Thus, a paramount aim of the session is to help define and develop this dynamic and expansive research field further.

The history of horticultures is a novel field of research in many parts of the world. It is distinguished from the field of garden history, which emerges more out of art history and landscape architecture. It is also distinguished from agrarian history through its objects of investigation, i.e. garden produce such as vegetables, fruits and ornamentals – all of which are typically distinguished from agricultural production in terms of the scale, crop species, and intensity of cultivation. Traditionally, research on food supply focuses primarily on agricultural production, but recent research within garden archaeology, agrarian history and economic history has revealed a significant importance of garden produce throughout history, in towns and on the countryside and in all social strata.

Due to the session’s interdisciplinary character, there is no definite chronological delimitation for periods concerned by investigations of contributing researchers. In terms of topics, papers may concern garden produce with different end-uses, for commercial purposes or for self-sufficiency in both rural and urban environments. This includes for instance aspects of labor and organization, such as professional gardeners, employees and family enterprises; aspects of cultivation and horticultural techniques, e.g. soil management, plant protection, tools, machinery, building; and adaptation, breeding and preservations of historical plant material.

S67 – The long history of short-term jobs 1560-1860

Ella Viitaniemi1, Jonas Lindström2

1 Tampere University / Faculty of social science / History
2 Uppsala University / Department of History

Introduction This session presents parts of a research project that focuses on short term jobs and temporary earnings as social, political and economic phenomena in the early modern/preindustrial rural context. Lifelong, permanent employment relationships became more common relatively late, during the industrialization which produced more long-term employments in factories for numerous people.

The session examines people who worked in the early modern countryside, outside permanent employment relationships and without access to land ownership. We look at different social and professional groups who earned their living by short-term or seasonal work, or by diverse temporary earnings in Sweden and Finland – but also comparing it in wider European development and context. We study preindustrial short-term labour as social and structural phenomenon, but also microhistorically at the individual level in the rural context. We examine short-term jobs by using different qualitative and quantitative methods. We ask what types of jobs were short-term, and why and how they were implemented. We also discuss the political, economical and social significance and extent of short-term labour in the preindustrial Swedish realm. At the individual level we are also interested in who were short-term or temporary workers and on their social status and mobility.

The papers in the session will explore the short-term jobs and temporary earnings of different social groups: farmworkers, soldiers, lower rank clergy and disabled people – and their families. The examination of these heterogeneous groups reveals the flexibility of social structures and diversity of personal survival strategies in the preindustrial countryside.

S68 – The Provision of Rural Credit in Pre-Industrial Europe

Hannah Robb1

1 University of Exeter

Introduction This panel explores the nature of rural credit in late medieval and early modern Europe. It pulls together ideas on the form and materiality of credit in rural society; how it was contracted, repaid and exchanged, the individuals and institutions lending money and the impact of agrarian calendars and cycles on the patterns of borrowing and lending. The ubiquity of credit and indebtedness across social hierarchies in rural communities is a recognised feature of the agrarian economy. Credit took many forms from deferred payments, reckonings of account, mortgages and the leasing of land as well as the borrowing and lending of coin and objects. Chris Briggs, Phillipp Schofield, Elaine Clark, James Davis and Craig Muldrew have done much to advance our understanding of credit networks and the institutions that emerged to regulate and enforce credit agreements in medieval and early modern rural society. Yet the means by which credit was contracted and recorded in rural communities remains under explored. The words spoken in oral promises are rarely made clear in the manorial courts and the record of written credit in the form of a contract, bond, account, or register appears dependent upon access to notaries and a legal infrastructure in which written proof was taken as evidence of contract. This panel explores the forms of credit and the changing nature of borrowing and lending in a period of increased commercialisation. The panel also speaks to some of the wider historiographical questions concerning the emergence of a rural credit market; in particular whether we can identify an active “market” for credit in rural society and the relationship between credit and wider commercial activities within the agrarian economy in pre-industrial Europe.

S69 – The role of agriculture in economic development and structural change: a 20th Century macro perspective

Angel Luis Gonzalez-Esteban1, Elisa Botella-Rodríguez2, Miguel Martín-Retortillo3

1 Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
2 Universidad de Salamanca (Usal)
3 Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (UAH)

Introduction The role of agriculture in promoting structural change has always been an inspiring topic of study. Since the British Industrial Revolution and the beginnings of “modern economic growth”, both academics and policymakers have been consistently engaged in a far-reaching discussion about the process of agricultural transformation and its effects on industrialization and economic growth. This matter has not only inspired the conception of numerous theoretical models but has also encouraged the proliferation of a wide range of empirical studies. In this context, there is European concern in several regions about structural change and rural depopulation. This session, however, would not be only aimed at analysing particular country case studies but also at making macro comparisons at the regional and the international level. Drawing from the diverse models and trajectories of Asian, American, African and European countries, our major aim is to arrive at general conclusions (as well as parallels and differences) on the implications of the diverse agricultural models for the possibilities of structural change and economic growth. The discussion will have a historical perspective (including quantitative and qualitative approaches) and will mainly focus on the second half of the 20th Century and the first decades of the 21st Century.

S70 – The Seamy Side of Rural Commons? Inequality and Exclusion in the Management of Early Modern Collective Resources

Niels Grüne1, José-Miguel Lana Berasain2

1 University of Innsbruck (Austria)
2 Public University of Navarre (Spain)

Introduction Research on common pool resources in the last decades has led to a fundamental reassessment of collective ownership and use practices. Along interpretive lines such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘social integration’, rural commons in particular have been salvaged from the once prevalent ‘tragedy’ paradigm (G. Hardin) and portrayed in a much more favourable light. To a certain degree, however, this rehabilitation feeds on downplaying a fact which social scientists readily acknowledge: Successful, i.e. enduring, common property regimes are based on ‘excludability’ (e.g. E. Ostrom) and normally on some sort of internal differentiation as well.
After a brief introduction, the session assembles four comparative case studies from various European regions in the early modern period and a concluding response by Nadine Vivier (University of Maine). It aims at tackling the problem of inequality and exclusion in two complementary ways: First, the papers start with an outline of how outsiders were defined and use rights allotted in each example – and how local arrangements in this respect changed with the effect of creating more closed (or, probably in rarer instances, more inclusive) communities. Second, and more importantly, the presenters will explore how such mechanisms for safeguarding hierarchised access were viewed and judged by contemporaries (inhabitants, stakeholders, feudal lords, state authorities, scholars etc.). Were the rules determining who participated to what extent, deemed to be in tune with the order of (estate-based, corporative, civil/bourgeois etc.) society at large? Which actors and groups disagreed on which grounds? Did conflicts over access reflect a more general challenge to the institutions and principles governing the commons? In which historical circumstances (e.g. agrarian reform initiatives) was criticism of discrimination and segregation most likely to turn into a political weapon?
Answers to these questions might go some way towards accounting for the factors why inequality and exclusion in the management of rural commons did not meet with serious opposition for most of the time, but came to be denounced as their ‘seamy side’ in specific settings.

S71 – The Seasonality of Rural Work and its Experience in Preindustrial Europe

Taylor Aucoin1

1 University of Exeter

Introduction This session explores the seasonality of rural work, and its varying impact upon labour experiences and practices across several countries in preindustrial Europe. Agrarian societies of premodern Europe were governed by religious, social, economic, and environmental rhythms. Seasonal work patterns manifested accordingly: in the yearly rounds of sowing, reaping, lambing, and shearing, but also in the cycles of holy days, annual fairs, quarterly rents, and fixed-term contracts of servants. Historians have long recognised the seasonal nature of agrarian work, mapping its regional variance according to the needs and demands of different pastoral and arable systems, and measuring its change across time in terms of the frequency of religious holidays. Yet, despite the rich breadth of this historiography, less research has been done on the contemporary experience and conceptualisation of seasonal rural work, and how this varied across time, setting, and identity. Understandings of the latter subject often rest upon certain entrenched assumptions: the immutability of seasonal work; the stereotypical work patterns attributed to particular genders, age-groups, or professions; the artificial separation between rural and urban economies. This session aims to challenge such perspectives and open new avenues of interrogation on the seasonality of rural work and its experience in preindustrial Europe, with papers encompassing a wide range of methodologies, sources, time-periods, and regions. Papers will include: an examination of the seasonality of rural work in seventeenth-century England among different identity groups (i.e. gender, age), based upon quantitative analysis of witness testimonies;  an analysis of how seasonal work and the experience of winter weather was remembered and recorded in a sixteenth-century Scottish peasant’s chronicle; and an exploration of the dynamic relationships between rural seasonal work and urban labour patterns in the Low Countries, as recorded in eighteenth-century court depositions.

S72 – The social construction of the market. Market land transfers in customary systems in Europe and developing countries, 18th-21st centuries

Eric Léonard1, Jean-Philippe Colin1

1 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement/French Institute for Development Research

Introduction The panel aims at giving an opportunity to bring together historiographical studies of the land markets in the ancient regimes of Europe and Latin America, and ethnographic work regarding this issue in customary systems of developing countries – notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. The privileged angle of attack is the social construction of the land markets and their forms of social embeddedness (in the complementary perspectives offered by Karl Polanyi and Mark Granovetter). More broadly, the panel aims at exploring the issue of the emergence and transformation of land markets as part of a broader dynamic of integration of rural societies into market economies.

Proposals may examine in particular:

  • the trajectories of emergence and transformations of market land transfers regulated by social networks or community organizations, in a perspective of institutional change and through an analysis of actors’ agency regarding institutions (understood in the sense of ‘rules of the game’);
  • the relationship between transfers of land within family groups and participation in land markets, in terms of inclusion and exclusion of family members regarding access to family land;
  • the impact of the development of land markets on land-use et land ownership structures;
  • the impact of the development of land markets on ‘commons’ (dissolution, redefinition of the perimeters of social membership, redefinition of rules of use and administration, etc.);
  • the trajectories of conflicts and the emergence of local devices securing market land transfers;
  • the forms and processes of interaction between social actors and public authorities in the regulation of market land transactions, in particular from the point of view of the relationship between local practices and the legal / regulatory framework;
  • etc…


S73 – The technical background which link us. (The technical background of agriculture in the early modern and modern Central Europe), UBB, Cluj

Enikő Rüsz Fogarasi1, 2

1 Babes Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca
2 Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, Budapest, Hungary

Introduction Technological development has always played a decisive role in the development of rural society and agriculture in our region in the early modern and modern age when major changes in farming practices are experienced. Increasing the available archival sources is making possible the evaluation of technical progress and its results in the world of villages. The aim of this section is to provide evidence of how technical progress contributed to the development of Central European villages, rural society.

The presence of guilds, industrial associations, factories, and plants involved in the production of agricultural tools promoted the technical development of farming. It may be interesting to evaluate the technical background the countryside might have to monitor the impact of these institutions on the tight environment possibly how well known their products are near and far. Where do the farmers get technical equipment from the countryside? It could be interesting to draw the path of technical equipment (eg mowers were brought from Vienna in Cluj-Napoca in the 17th century, it would be interesting to know where they came from, or later it would be interesting to know the place of export of agricultural machines or the market).

Knowledge of the technical conditions of farming would promise results in many other interesting areas of rural development. It could be traced whether technological developments are transforming or affecting rural society.

The findings of these papers would shed light on the similarities and differences of this region in a Central European context. Possibly, if archival sources get us, the western impact on the agricultural technical background of this region could be monitored.
The technical issues, we can see keep together the villages with the towns, the rural society with urban society.

We are waiting for the contributions to this topic from Central Europe.

S74 – The ‘Rural Consumer’ – Consumer Goods, Consumption, and Material Culture of Rural Households in Early Modern Europe

Henning Bovenkerk1

1 Universität Münster, Germany

Introduction Early modern Europe has experienced an expansion of consumer goods – triggered by the intensification of global trade. Thus, this period is considered – particularly in some of the highly commercialized north Atlantic neighbouring regions – an age of ‘consumer revolution’. This process highly reflects in both an extension and a differentiation of the material culture of households, particularly regarding ‘new luxuries’ and colonial goods. A comprehensive discussion has evolved about the emergence and the scope of these developments in different European and (North-)American regions, focused mainly on the urban middle and upper social classes. Despite these findings and the research on these subjects, the consumption of rural households in this period is still a neglected research topic. Therefore, the question of the emergence of the early modern ‘rural consumer’ is still open. It is crucial to ask for its historical context of origin on a regional scope by focusing on institutional, social, and socio-economic aspects as well on those of regarding the relation between centre/periphery. Particularly, a comparative European perspective on this regard is yet still missing.

The session aims to approach and contribute new insights in these questions by illuminating the consumption and change of material culture in agrarian societies. It focusses on the ‘rural consumer’ in different ways: Which different social rural groups consumed new or globally traded consumer goods? Did households in the countryside have the opportunity to change their consumer behaviour? Did they have access to markets of consumer goods at all? Did the material culture of agrarian households change? Moreover, was there a ‘rural consumer revolution’?

S75 – Tourism and rural communities

Petra Kavrečič1, Patrizia Battilani2

1 Petra Kavrečič, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History
2 Patrizia Battilani, PhD, Associate Professor, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Department of Economics

Introduction Throughout the last century, tourism as an economic activity and social and cultural phenomena has strongly marked our society and way of living. As the fastest growing industry in the world, scholars from different research perspectives (historians, economists, anthropologists…) have studied the phenomena, but none of these disciplines gave enough attention to the relation between rural society/economy and tourism.

Throughout the 20th century, many rural areas in different European countries have become zones of periphery. During the period of the first industrialization, but especially after the end of the Second World War, predominately rural regions had to cope with the processes of depopulation. Due to the massive industrialization (e.g. socialist countries) and new job opportunities in urban centres, the population of these areas migrated towards the industrial cities in order to find a better life (better living conditions, jobs in factories, new sources of income etc.).

Beside economic reasons, the urban centres were offering a different lifestyle. New trends in everyday life appeared as well as diverse opportunities to spend leisure time. Payed vacations were introduces also for workers, which could then finally afford to go on holiday.

In this context, some rural communities, usually the ones situated near to the seaside or in High Mountain, found their original way to the economic development becoming tourist destinations. This was the case for instance of alpine villages or Mediterranean coast towns. Most of them moved from an agriculture based economy to tourism.

However, other rural areas and communities remained excluded both from the industrial and the tourist development and were economically and culturally marginalized.

They did not find their development path and also their consumer pattern changed slowly.

Our aim is to present scientific papers, which study and analyse the relation between tourism and the rural areas, that is whether and how is tourism related with nonurban regions. Did (does) tourism have any impact on social and economic life of the peasant population?

In the frame of the proposed session, we intent to present papers, which will address how different European rural areas and communities were (are) involved in tourist activities. The aim is to understand tourist characteristics or presence in rural areas. We will consider various aspects: tourism as an additional source of peasant income; tourism in rural areas in the frame of sustainable development and economic sustainability; promotion of cultural and natural heritage of rural areas. This part of the session will be more focused on entrepreneurship (new tourist products, agritourism, community cooperatives …) of the population of the rural areas in the last century. Our attention is also going to be oriented towards a more social level of everyday life and leisure time. Our aim is also to study how tourist and spare time activities involved the rural society. Since the growing popularity of tourism in the last century, we are also interested to study these aspects: how the rural communities managed their free time; did the rural communities benefit from tourist services at all.

S76 – Trading Encounters in the countryside – on practices of petty trade in Norden, 1860-1940.

Ann-Catrin Östman1, Eija Stark1

1 Åbo Akademi University Finland

Introduction Peddling has been, and still is, an integral part of social, cultural and economic life in many regions of the world. In the nineteenth century, the exchange of goods increased considerably as an effect of globalization, which affected trade on global, regional and local levels. Consequently, new livelihood opportunities opened up for itinerant traders, who distributed the increasing supply of colonial and industrial commodities, handicrafts and drapery. There was a quick expansion and flood of goods in rural areas.

This session presents parts of research project that focuses on petty trade and cultural encounters. As a term, petty trade refers to an economic activity that involves selling and buying goods – agricultural as well as consumer goods – and services in small scale.  Petty traders, such as ‘peddlers’, ‘mongers’, ‘hucksters’, ‘hawkers’, ‘vendors’ and ‘bootleggers’, were all engaged in small-scale trade, and the epithets attached to these sellers were often pejorative.

The session explores relations and encounters between itinerant traders and sedentary communities in the Nordic region. In Finland and Scandinavia, petty traders often belonged to groups in the margins of society, such as vagrants, poor peasants, and ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, like Roma, Russians, Sámi, Jews, and Tatars. These traders not only gained their livelihoods from petty trade, but they also acted as important intermediaries in providing rural customers, often from lower social strata, with price-worthy merchandises. More importantly, people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities came together in new ways, in which petty trade functioned as a significant social arena of such encounters.  Yet, petty trade – partly a despised way of earning a living – has not been of greater scholarly interest, albeit this form of livelihood was in fact both notable and not uncommon.

This panel addresses petty trade by tracing everyday practices that shaped trading encounters, i.e. encounters between mobile traders and resident groups in rural societies. Transnational and interregional relations characterized this sparsely populated regions, where disparate groups in terms of religion, ethnicity and language interacted.  One example of this is the The long tradition of barter trade between peasants, fishermen and other inhabitants of Estonia and Finland established encounters over the Gulf of Finland In a broad sense, the overall increase in consumption had wide cultural and social consequences that greatly affected social, ethnic and language relations. It is thus a relevant area to examine social relations between incomers, persons passing through and inhabitants in the countryside.

S77 – Transforming the Hinterland. Labour Relations and Livelihood Options in European Forestry and Timber Trade, ca. 1700 to 1950

Rita Garstenauer1, Iva Lucic2

1 Institute of Rural History
2 Uppsala University

Introduction From the early 18th Century, when increased demand of wood and perceived threats of wood shortage drove innovation in European forestry, up to the mid 20th Century, when combustion engine technology became standard in timber harvest and transport, the industry fundamentally relied on human labour. Harvest and especially transport required both physical strength as well as practical know-how, opening up a livelihood opportunity for the socially and economically deprived members of rural societies. The introduction of a new academic forestry regime according to the principle of sustainability and, in contrast, attempts of pushing the “frontier” of timber extraction to new, supposedly pristine forests were two distinct approaches that shaped the labour relations and related livelihood options in the forest industry. Moreover, these developments also resulted in major social transformations .
The labour intensive forest and timber industries promoted mobility of the workers on a regional scale and beyond. While lumbering crews moved through larger consecutive areas according to the spatial patterns of management, supra-regional networks of governance, ownership and trade opened long-distance pathways for labour migration: forest owners with estates in geographically distinct areas might move their well-tried lumbering crews from one site to another; crews of young workers might seek contracts in lumbering campaigns abroad; internationally active lumber trading companies might hire workforce at one site of their economic activities and transfer them to another; and finally transportation, for a long time via waterways, moved the rafters together with the commodities over long distances. To be sure, lumber work was hard physical labour, for low pay, and with a high risk of injury and premature death. But it did connect members of otherwise marginalized strata of rural societies with a network of supra-regional economic activity that had a potentially dynamic effect on the local communities.

In this session, we intend to compare case studies for the impact of forest labour on rural societies during the formative period of modern forestry and lumber trade from areas with large scale forestry across European divides. We encourage contributions on topics ranging from  temporal or permanent migration, labour conflict and regulation, on the role of forest labour in relation to other rural livelihood arrangements, and on the transformations that forestry and forest labour engendered in forest dominated rural communities. Methodically, we welcome a broad range of approaches such as social and economic history, historical anthropology, environmental history or long-term social-ecological research. We strive for new insights on the forest and timber industries as agents of rural social transformation

S78 – Widows, Family, Economy and Survival

Beatrice Moring1

1 University of Helsinki

Introduction Some studies of widows have claimed that while the loss of a partner had little impact on the lives of men, it radically changed the life of a woman. While it is indeed the case that widowhood could mean a need to re-structure and re-organise life, many widows were able to continue life as before.

Where the woman lived on a farm the question arose if she should continue running it with her children, with kin or external work force, or if it was time to retire. Widows of craftsmen could be in a similar position. If the husband left no property survival could be more problematic and it could be necessary to seek assitance frm the wider family or society.

The age of the widow and her children, in cases that there were children, as well as socio-economic conditions, could have important impact on the available options. The aim of the session is to analyse such options and strategies that were adopted by widows and to make comparisons between countries and social groups.

S79 – Women in European Agricultural Extension Services in the Twentieth Century: Prominence versus Policy

Mícheál Ó Fathartaigh1, 2

1 Social Sciences Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway
2 Dublin Business School

Introduction Topic

In twentieth century Europe, women were as prominent in the process of agricultural knowledge transfer as were men.  On one side of the process, farming women were as prominent as farming men, and on the other side of the process, the extension-service side, female advisors also featured as prominently as male advisors.  Although agriculture was, like all facets of society and all economic sectors, patriarchal, it had not historically been divided along gendered lines in the same way that other areas of social and economic activity in Europe had been divided.  Labour in agricultural, rural, Europe was not masculinised in the way that it was in industrial, urban, Europe.  Farming women and farming men ran their shared farms in partnership.  In addition, farming women tended to have specific, commensurate, roles in farm enterprises; for example, keeping poultry, making butter and managing financial affairs.  As professional extension services in Europe developed during the twentieth century, they increasingly reflected this reality and employed female advisors to work with farming women and also encouraged male advisors to work with them as well.  However, the prominence of women, both on farms and in extension services, often came into conflict with the official, patriarchally inclined and prejudiced, policies that European extension services pursued.  Put succinctly, interactions between farming men and male advisors were still promoted above the interactions between farming women and female/male advisors; not to mention between farming men and female advisors.  Furthermore, women tended to be maintained in reserved roles in European extension services, facing opposition to their being given roles of responsibility for knowledge transfer in general and struggling to achieve the same career paths within European extension services as men.

Aim of the Session

This session will reflect on the established scholarship on women in European agricultural extension services in the twentieth century and will, moreover, draw on the most recent research in the area in order to reassess the conflict between the prominence of women in the process of knowledge transfer and official policy towards them in this regard.  Panel contributors will each take a single European country, or small range of European countries, as a case study.  They will both outline the position of women in extension services in their chosen countries in the twentieth century and summarise the established scholarship on the subject, before bringing to bear their most recent research findings.  The overarching aim of the session will be to synthesise the findings of all four contributors, through the good offices of the discussant, identifying patterns and also using findings relating to one or more case studies to help shed additional light on one or more other case studies.  More specifically, the session will question again, inter alia, the impact of attitudinal changes in the wake of the women’s liberation movement from the 1960s, the impact of agricultural commercialisation, intensification and industrialisation on the role of women across the twentieth century, and the impact of changes to inheritance laws.

S80 – Wooded meadows and grazed forests – The history of multiple-product land use in wooded agricultural ecosystems

Tommy Lennartsson1, Anna Maria Stagno2, Anna Westin1, Eva Gustavsson3, Roberta Cevasco4, Anamaria Iuga5, Cosmin Ivascu6, Seth Murray7, Elizabeth Anne Jones8, Scott Madry8, Vittorio Tigrino9

1 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
2 University of Genoa, Italy
3 University of Gothenburg, Sweden
4 University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy
5 The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Romania
6 AQUATIM, Romania
7 North Carolina State University, USA
8 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
9 University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy

Introduction In order to understand the historical dimensions of subsistence strategies and the social organisation of the rural communities during the last centuries, knowledge about the provisioning land and past land use is crucial. Natural conditions circumscribe possibilities and limitations for land use, but farmers have also largely altered those frames by changing natural ecosystems and creating new ones. Semi-natural ecosystems were often formed where natural processes were more or less controlled in order to produce commodities.

One fundamental change of ecosystems by rural societies is the clearing of forests in favour of production on the ground, of hay, pasture, and arable products. In many parts of Europe, however, semi-open ecosystems were formed in order to fertilise and enhance the ground production and combine it with the harvesting of products from trees and shrubs, such as wood, fruits, nuts, leaf fodder etc. Forests were transformed through the coppicing and pollarding into a multitude of land-use types, from low forest to wooded meadows, pastures, or fields. Many of those land use types included rotational harvesting, for example temporary cultivation, where the trees and shrubs contributed to the soil’s nutrient status and to the sustainability of the production.

In spite of the widespread use of wooded agricultural ecosystems, the multiple-product land-use has received only little attention in the study of cadastral maps and other archival records. Until recently, this is the case also for historical landscape research, although with some notable exceptions such as François Sigaut and Oliver Rackham. This implies that for many rural societies and regions, we may have only limited knowledge about one of the major resource pools for historical agriculture and subsistence.

In this panel, we will explore the variety of wooded agricultural ecosystems in Europe from different perspectives, such as (but not restricted to):

  • Products and production practices
  • The role in pre-industrial production systems, for example, in terms of rotational cultivation and harvest. The importance for local rural societies, for example, in reproducing integrated peasant economies based on diversified production, and to the sustainability and resilience of production.
  • Institutional structures for the use of such multiple resources, including property rights, collective practices etc.
  • Continuity, change, and decline of such historical land-use and practices.
  • Sources of knowledge about wooded agricultural land, and ways to transmit local knowledge.
  • Geographical differences depending on needs, traditions, property rights, natural conditions etc…
  • The importance of such ecosystems today, e.g., for production, conservation of cultural heritage and biodiversity etc.
  • Influences of contemporary economic incentives/subsidies on this type of historical land use.


S81 – Young rural history scholars – a network introduction

Anna R. Locke1

1 University of Gothenburg

Introduction In Sweden, the field of rural history has for a long time been prominent within history research. The field is well established among senior scholars, but PhD-students and post-docs can often find themselves to be the only young scholar within the field at their home department. To ensure the survival and development of the field it is crucial for young scholars to be encouraged to choose rural history as a subject for their dissertations, and to keep doing research within the field after the dissertations is completed. Therefore a group of young scholars have taken the initiative to form a network, to create a platform where young scholars from different universities can meet and help each other to challenge and navigate in the world of academia.

In this session we will introduce the network, and some of the scholars that are already included will shortly present their ongoing research. We also aim at having a discussion regarding how the network can function to: help PhD-students and young scholars to gain access to other networks, national and international, get academic feedback from a broader arena than their home-faculties and get tips on how to find funding for future research. To the session we invite scholars from all over the broad field of rural history, to exchange experiences and ideas regarding networks for young scholars, and how these can function to encourage young scholars to stay in the field of rural history.

S82 – ‘Secondary products’: Production, consumption and trade of the forgotten goods of pre-modern Europe

Alexandra Sapoznik1

1 King’s College London

Introduction Much of the historical literature on pre-modern trade has focused on a few major items, such as grain, cloth, wool, hides and iron, which were transported in bulk for widespread and profitable markets. These products were the mainstays of pre-modern life. Yet they were often accompanied by a vast array of other products of the natural world, invaluable to pre-modern economy and society, but which were traded on a lesser scale or the product of more specialized production, environment or natural resources. Drawing attention to the production, trade and consumption of these ‘secondary’ products offers the potential to consider medieval and early modern trade in news ways, emphasizing the complexity of trading routes, economies of scale according to value or place of production, the role of local environments and access to specific natural resources, and specialized production in rural communities. Indeed, these overlooked goods were so embedded in pre-modern trade, that considering them ‘secondary’ products might itself be controversial.

The themes of this panel and universal, and contributions are welcome from all geographic areas and any pre-modern period.

Questions which might be considered:

  • The extent to which these were the result of specialized production or ancillary to production of other goods
  • Distribution routes and supply chains
  • Trends in supply and demand
  • Impact of urban demand on rural economies
  • Monopolies
  • Patterns of consumption



E-mail (academic questions):

Academic Conferences
Phone: +46 18 67 10 03
E-mail (practical questions):

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Important dates

15 Feb 2022
Opening of registration
1 April 2022
Deadline for application for student grants
1 Apr 2022
Deadline for early bird
1 May 2022
Final programme online
1 Jun 2022
Deadline for late registration

Organised by

SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Logotype.
Uppsala University. Logotype.

In collaboration with


European rural history organisation. Logotype.