Friederike Scholten: Analyzing Productivity and Rationality on the Basis of Account Books – Westphalia and Rhineland 1650-1850. Abstract # 6 (random order)

“Towards the background of the north-west German feudal system of the so called “Grundherrschaft”, manorial estates turned out to have multiple roles: From the economic point of view manorial estates were organized commercially and by this manorial landlords turned out to be key players in the lease of land and the trade of grain. The account books of nearly up to ten manors from the region of Westphalia and Rhineland therefore form the principal source of two micro-historical projects:
On the one hand the project “Real land rents in Westphalia, 16th – 20th century”1 deals with the calculation of agricultural productivity on the basis of the price for the factor land, namely leases or land prices. Since Ricardo, the price for land is a key factor in an economy with an extensive agricultural sector. According to new research (Clark 2002, Hoffman 1996), improve-ments in agricultural productivity can be estimated by the help of the level of land price as data on agricultural production and factor input are rare.
On the other hand the project “Market relations of manorial estates in Rhineland and West-phalia, 1650 – 1850”2 concentrates on an analysis of the level of rationality in the trade and management of grain in manorial households in early modern times. It bases on the idea that regional market economies and market societies developed to a substantial part within the framework of the everyday administration of grain stocks of manors, for which grain rents consisted a major source of income. Here, local grain prices and volumes as well as concrete numbers on grain stocks stand in the focus.
Both projects which are part of the paper therefore use manorial account books since the 17th century as principal source and track individual entries on land rents/numbers on grain sales and stocks. Besides, the quantitative analysis is supported by a qualitative analysis which em-beds the empirical results into a wider context.
As a result, this paper follows three main lines of inquiry: It does not only present the structure of the account books (1), it is also mainly concerned with the process of the encoding of the sources (2) and with the analysis of the data from the sources (3) (e.g.: how to build a West-phalian index of leases). With respect to method the paper essentially rests on two pillars: On the one hand, it develops a relational database (of land rents and its attributes,) which can then be analysed using statistical tools. On the other hand, the quantitative analysis is sup-ported and extended by a qualitative analysis by protocols, letters etc. concerning the management of the noble estate.”
1 funded by the DFG (PF 351/8) at the University of Münster from 2010 to 2013
2 funded by the DFG (PF 351/11-1) at the University of Münster since July 2014


Friederike Scholten  (University of Münster)
Presentation: Oct 22, 4.10-4.30 p.m., Haus der Begegnung [PROGRAMME]



Picture credits: By ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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