The Market Mightier Than the Family? A Case Study of Market Transfers and Land Distribution in Holland, 1555-1684

Gustafscenen Session 1: Labour, living standards and inequality organized by Erik Bengtsson, Kathryn Gary, Tobias Karlsson, Malin Nilsson and Jakob Molinder


Bram Hilkens


The current paper attempts to add to our understanding of the workings of the land market in early modern Holland over the long term in periods of economic growth, decline, and structural transition. It aims to do so by exhausting information from a uniquely kept source: the schepenbankprotocollen from Hazerswoude, a rural town southeast of Leiden. The sources contain serial information on all formal land exchanges in the area, including the exchanging parties (and often their familial relations), land prices, collateral, and the date the debt was paid or defaulted. This allows us to reconstruct the details of all formal land exchanges between 1555-1808, focusing on the period 1555-1684. By doing so, the paper attempts to gain insight into the constituents of the land market, adding to our understanding of the growth of Holland’s rural economy, its transition to agrarian capitalism, and the market-induced drivers of land inequality.


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