Call for Papers: Rural History 2017 Panel - The rise and nature of landless rural households in Europe, 16th – 19th centuries

RHN 95/2016 | Call

Organisers: Christine Fertig (University of Münster, Germany) and Richard Paping (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
11-14 September 2017, Leuven, Belgium
Deadline for submissions: 12 October 2016

Panel at the Rural History 2017 Conference:
The rise and nature of landless rural households in Europe, 16th – 19th centuries

In general there is a strong bias in historical research towards the land-owning part of rural population. Sometimes it seems to be forgotten that with the rise in population the European countryside from the early modern period onward increasingly consisted of other groups of people, who did not, or nearly did not control or use any land. In many regions large numbers of rural households had to find alternative sources of income. Usually these households formed the poorest part of rural society. Although there has been considerable research on early modern proto-industry, especially on the production of textiles, other non-landed groups like rural craftsmen (as a sign of rural specialisation) or landless people living from agricultural wage work (signifying rural proletarisation) have not gained much attention. That neglect is rather peculiar, as life strategies of land poor households follow a completely different logic. These strategies were not concentrated on the long run control and use of land, as was usually the case with peasant families.

The purpose of the session is to bring together papers from different parts of Europe, shedding light on this increasing non-landed part of rural population, whose economic opportunities differed largely between regions and over time. These differences resulted in varying strategies, either in specializing or in combining various strands of economic activities. The social position of non-landed households depended also on the shape of social relations and social networks between them and the (landed) peasants. Though such relations could open up opportunities to make a living and even to improve living conditions over time, non-landed households remained economically the most vulnerable of rural society, as for instance the decline of proto-industry has shown.

The session aims at bringing together papers on household, family and income strategies of the non-landed part of rural society. We invite submissions the socio-economic position, household and family strategies of landless households including their interrelation with peasants, addressing one or more of the following questions:

  • What was the share and the socio-economic position of non-landed households in rural societies? How did their position develop over time?
  • What economic activities were vital to most non-landed households? What role did financial and human capital play? What was the role of different family members and did this result in strongly diverging family strategies in the short and long run compared to landed families?
  • How did non-landed families interrelate with peasants? To what degree were landed and non-landed strata interdependent on economic level, at labour markets, food markets and housing markets? Were social networks of peasants and non-peasants interwoven, and were the near or distant family relations between the two groups?

Those wishing to take part in this session should submit by 12 October 2016 a 300-word abstract to Richard Paping  (