Rural History 2015

Panel 65

Organizers: Landsteiner, Erich (1); Schwarz, Ulrich (2)

Affiliation: 1:Univertsity of Vienna, Austria; 2: Institut für Geschichte des ländlichen Raums (IGL), St. Pölten, Austria)

Title: Contract choice and rural history

"Many discussions have been waged and a vast literature has been produced during the last decades on the question why agrarian production and social relations in different regions at different times have been dominated by specific forms of contracts (or a particular mix of contracts). Contract choice theory has so far provided a bundle of hypotheses to address this important problematic in rural history. According to this line of theorizing problems of risk sharing (output risk, risk aversion of tenants and landlords), moral hazard (and the resulting monitoring costs), asset specifity (annual vs. perennial crops, livestock) and market imperfections (for capital, land and labour) have been proposed to explain the regional and chronological occurrence of specific contracts in agrarian settings. Debates in this field have so far been centered on three types of contracts: wage contracts, fixed rent contracts, and – perhaps most prominently – sharecropping arrangements. Whereas economists have focused on questions of efficiency in their investigations, historians have drawn much more on the contexts within which specific forms of contract occur and the conditions of the switch from one type of contract to another.
If we can agree on the fact that there is still some juice in this lemon, the panel could address this problematic by shifting, enlarging and concentrating the focus on the following points (the following list is provisional and could be easily enlarged):
- Since we are dealing with agrarian production, asset specifity and changing techniques should be given pride of place.
- The usual triad of contracts (wage, fixed-rent, sharecropping) could be enlarged and a closer look at the in fact much wider variability of contract forms (and their mix) – casual vs. permanent labour contracts, forced labour, crop rent vs. monetary rent, duration of contracts etc. - taken.
- How do we explain the disappearance of certain forms of contracts or the shift from one type of contract to another?
- How do we deal with contexts where the principal and the agent have very unequal power and choices (e.g. seigneurial regimes)?"



Chair: Erich Landsteiner, University of Vienna, Austria

Discussant: Rui Santos, Universidade Nove de Lisboa, Portugal

Paper 1: Contract choice in 19th century Bihar (India)

Rolf Bauer, University of Vienna, Austria

Paper 2: Land Lease Contracts and the State in Nazi Germany

Ulrich Schwarz, Institute of Rural History, Austria

Paper 3: The lingering death of sharecropping (la mezzadria) in central Italy, from 1945 to the 1990s and beyond’

Stuart Oglethorpe, University of Manchester, UK

Paper 4: Landowner, Agent and Tenant Farmer: A Case Study of the Marquis of Anglesey’s Dorset and Somerset Estate c1812-1854

Carol Beardmore, University of Leicester, UK


Suggested deadline for sending completed papers 31 july 2015

© 2014 Rural History 2015