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Faculty of Economics

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Klein, A. and Ogilvie, S.

Occupational structure in the Czech lands under the Second Serfdom

Economic History Review

Vol. 69(2) pp. 493-521 (2016)

Abstract: A shift towards non-agricultural activities is widely viewed as a key component of European economic growth during the early modern Little Divergence. Yet little is known about this process in those eastern-central European economies that experienced the expansion of landlord powers under the ‘second serfdom’. We analyze non-agricultural activity under the second serfdom using data on 6,983 villages in Bohemia (the Czech lands) in 1654. Bohemia resembled other easterncentral, nordic and southern European economies in having a lower intensity of nonagricultural activity than western Europe. But Bohemian serfs engaged in a wide array of industrial and commercial activities whose intensity varied significantly with village characteristics. Non-agricultural activity showed a significant positive relationship with village size, pastoral agriculture, sub-peasant social strata, Jews, freemen, female household heads, and village mills, and a significant negative relationship with arable agriculture, large peasant holdings, and towns. It manifested a curvilinear relationship with the ‘second serfdom’, as proxied by landlord presence on village holdings. Landlord presence in villages also reversed the positive effects of female household headship and mills on non-agricultural activities. Under the second serfdom, landlords encouraged serf activities from which they could extract rents, while stifling others which threatened manorial interests.

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