Call for Papers: Rural History 2019 Panel – Famine in the manorial society and economy

RHN 1/2019 | Call

Organisers: Piotr Miodunka (Cracow University of Economics, Poland), Marten Seppel (University of Tartu, Estonia)

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

Deadline for paper proposals: 25 January 2019

Call for Papers:
Rural History 2019 Panel
Famine in the manorial society and economy

According to current research, famine seems to be an experience of western and northern Europe only. Many papers and books discussing subsistence crises and famines focus on these parts of the continent, and the latest publication edited by the renowned duo and Alfani appears to additionally confirm the impression (Alfani, Ó Gráda, 2017). The editors are well aware that the apparent lack of famines in Eastern Europe does not reflect more alimentary security but is rather indicative of a relative scarcity of information, particularly acute when it comes to societies living barely at subsistence level. On the other hand, it is widely believed that at times of crop failures in Eastern Europe, landlords looked after their peasants as essential actors in the manorial economy and providers of unpaid labour (Kula, 1976). Real famines as such thus did not take place.

Today we know that episodes of famines occurred also in regions where manorial economy dominated, e.g. Livonia, Poland and Bohemia. The Swedish example shows that manorialism could mitigate the effects of one-year crop failures but was unable to prevent the negative consequences of extended periods of weather shocks (Dribe, Olsson, Svensson, 2012). We should also consider that during the poor harvest grain landlords had to choose between supporting their own serfs and profits from selling grain at high prices.

The contributors to this panel would be requested to share the results of their research on famines in the manorial economy, particularly in Eastern Europe, focusing on the causes, processes, effects and, in particular, specific features. The issues to possibly address would be: What impact did the structural and chronic problems of underdeveloped peripheries have on the characteristics of famines? To what extent did manorial economy increase or reduce food scarcity amongst peasants? How did landlords and/or peasants change their normal strategies in face of disaster? We will also appreciate papers examining the mechanism of what is referred to as paternal care in case of famine or drawing comparisons between manorial or paternalistic relief and the more institutionalised western system. Any method and region, case-studies or generalized research spanning the period from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century will be welcome.

A paper must include a title, the full name and affiliation of author and co-author (s), and a short abstract (up to 400 words) introducing the topic, its scope and approach. All proposals shall be submitted via the conference Online Submission Tool: with the copy to: Piotr Miodunka ( and Marten Seppel (

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