Changes in field systems

RHN 12/2013 | Call

Organiser: CERHIO UMR 6258 (Centre de Recherches Historiques de l’Ouest) / GDRI CRICEC (CRIses and Changes in the European Countryside in the long run)

15-16 October 2013, Rennes, France

Deadline: 15 March 2013


Changes in field systems.
Comparatives approaches: Pace, contexts and forms

The aim of this conference is to revisit the issue of the evolution of field systems on the long term in different regions and contexts. The discussion doesn’t concern how we can know field systems nor does it concern field systems themselves. The purpose of this conference is to study the impact of the contexts in which field systems evolve and to analyse how and at which pace the evolutions happen. The aim is to measure the impact of “crises” (of whatever nature: economic, political, environmental, etc.) on the evolution of field systems comparing the evolutions that can be observed in different regions and/or at different times. The main idea is to ask the question of how crises and political and economic incentives have an impact on the evolution of field systems in different historical contexts.

The comparative project at the heart of this conference means that there is no chronological limit: all cases for which we know field systems can be presented, from the Iron Age to nowadays. The geographical frame is essentially European but it can easily be extended to the regions that were “discovered” and appropriated (colonised) by the Europeans in early modern and modern times (America, North Africa in particular). The aim of this conference is to bring together experiences that are usually observed in isolation, because they befall in places far away or because they occur at different times or because they are associated with radically different contexts (indeed what is common between land reforms, land clearing, medieval enclosures, processes of land colonisation, etc.); experiences which were locked up for a long time in restrictive explanatory models.

We’ll exclude the study of slow evolutions of the field system, those which are the sum of individual micro-evolutions (inheritance’s shares and recombination of farms that necessarily occurs). Unlike planned changes which occur on a relatively short period, these spontaneous changes in the field system are embedded in the long-term. They constitute what we might call “the life of the field system”. This conference will not focus on them. Nevertheless we have to compare the role of these slow evolutions with the role of the changes resulting from a prior project or a crisis point in order to appreciate their respective parts in the development of later forms of the field system. Indeed it will be necessary to ask from concrete examples if the planned changes in field systems produce larger and more durable mutations than the slow changes associated with inheritance or merchant exchanges of the land.

The papers should all focus on an example of rapid and planned construction or redevelopment of a field system in conjunction with a global, political or economic event or will regardless of the time at which it occurred, whether it is conquest of new spaces and ex-nihilo development of field systems (margins of northern Europe, colonisation in Quebec, in North America, medieval clearing, etc.) or rearrangements in the early modern and modern times involving pre-existing field systems (enclosures, land consolidation, land reforms, etc.). We wish that the papers take into account some or all of the following questions:

  • The context and aims (political, social, economic) of the observed changes
  • The pace
  • The forms of the new field systems once they’ve been set up (taking into account the role of theoretical models and earlier forms of plots)
  • The resilience of practices and ancient forms, the coexistence of forms related to different contexts, the superposition of field systems
  • The success – or failure – of the newly created field systems (ecological and economic sustainability, consequences in terms of social evolutions)

Obviously this list is not exclusive.

After the conference and the associated discussions, the question will be redefined and clarified in order to elaborate in a collective work for which the conference participants will be invited to submit texts derived from their presentations and ensuing communications.

Proposals for papers (2000 characters) + short CV should be send before march 15th, 2013

Contact :