From peasant based decolonization to environmental and food sovereignty concern. Reflections on the writing of rural studies and rural hstory from the 1960s to the present


Följande text, ursprungligen presenterad vid EURHO’s Rural history Conference 2017 I Leuven, publicerades för en tid sedan på spanska i tidskriften AYER nr 120, 2020(4), ss. 19-51.

From the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, academic writing on contemporary rural matters was largely dominated by peasant studies, related to the decolonization in Asia and Africa, to 20th century liberation wars and rebellions in which peasantries were involved, and to discussions of development strategies in the global south. These studies spilled over to an interest in the relations between peasants or family farmers and the dominant capitalist sector in the industrialized west as well. To generalize – and disregard for a moment agricultural economics writing, which often was concerned with neo-classically based analysis of agricultural progress – what was addressed was the compatibility of peasantries, with capitalism.

Meanwhile, European agricultural history was dominated by economic historians who focused agricultural transformation related to the industrial revolution. In case their timespan was extended backwards, they treated the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the late medieval agrarian crises or the proposed existence and dissolution of a long term Malthusian cycle stretching from the High middle ages to the 18th century. A broad range of social and demographic themes were treated, but to generalize again, it was processes of change and causes of economic development that were searched for. 

By now (2010s), political economists and sociologists focusing ruralities are most commonly concerned with land grabbing and “new” social movements in the global south, with landscape planning and rural development projects in the wake of rural depopulation following from agricultural ”rationalization” and de-industrialization in the west and with food sovereignty, food chain theories, critique of neo-liberalism and environmental issues everywhere.

* Research for this paper was financed by a grant from Handelsbanken research foundation (P 11-0151). I am grateful for remarks and suggestions from Alba Díaz-Geada, Jose-Miguel Lana, Ildikó Asztalos Morell and two anonymous referees. Remaining errors are mine.

Agricultural history is by now less exclusively studied by Economic historians, and a glance, at the agendas of recent European rural history conferences (Brighton 2010, Berne 2013, Girona 2015, Leuven 2017) reveals a rising interest for the study of historical rural communities’ social and ecological sustainability, their resilience to various types of crises but also cultural heritage and identity studies. 

The working hypothesis of this article is that these changes of focus are related to two processes. Firstly, and perhaps trivially, social scientists are formed by current problems (political, economic, social, environmental etc.), which are on the agenda during their intellectual maturation process. In communication between researchers these problems are mediated and reformulated into implicit research programs. When perceived “real life” problems change, so does focus of research.

Secondly this turn of tide is related to a retreat from Marxist interpretations – related to the fall of the Soviet system – which were prominent in earlier contemporary and historical rural studies. They have, to some extent, been replaced by new epistemological viewpoints, under the umbrellas of post structuralism or post modernism.  

In next section, I elaborate on the “birth” of the peasant studies tradition in the 1960s and 1970s. In the third section I relate recently focused themes in international rural and agricultural political economy writing and discuss why and how the changes between the 1970s and the present occurred. In the fourth section I turn to history and briefly relate the “birth” of the dynamic economic history version of agricultural/rural history. I concentrate on Swedish historiography, because the quick development and (partial) break-up of this economic history version of agricultural history, which I think is commonplace, appeared particularly evidently and clearly in that case. The fifth section concludes. 

The birth of international peasant studies

According to Teodor Shanin, early rural sociology, which had emerged in the late 19th century in the USA but only after the Second World War in Europe, focused “on farming as an occupation rather than on peasants as a social entity”. This was still true in the 1960s.[1] Apart from some anthropological studies, mostly on Latin America or India, few attempts had been made to understand contemporary peasantries and societies in the developing countries. Sociologists like Kroeber, and anthropologists like Redfield defined peasant societies as cultural “part societies”[2]. An outcome was Eric Wolf’s book Peasants in which peasantry was defined as an evolutionary (economic) category, “above”, primitive agriculturalists, and related to social elites to which they delivered surplus. Peasantries were parts of socio-economically, power-wise structured societies.[3]

Peasant studies of the 1960s and 1970s was connected to development studies and in this field, a proxy cold war conflict had evolved between adherers of the Soviet development pattern, and a liberal perspective, neither of which spent much consideration on peasants. As noted by Göran Djurfeldt both camps shared an evolutionist progress agenda. In the Soviet perspective, developing countries needed a bourgeois revolution first, in liberal perspectives, replication of western “modernization” would suffice.[4] In the late 1950s, however, Paul Baran signaled the birth of a Marxian growth theory analyzing underdevelopment as a process and connecting to dependency theory, which had earlier been developed by among others Raúl Prebish. The Marxian version of the “dependency school” headed by among others André Gunder Frank and the related “World system school” by Immanuel Wallerstein both focused the circulation sphere and the growth of a global capitalist system. Frank’s ordination was radical: In order to develop, the underdeveloped countries should break trade relations with the US and European centers as these relations was what developed their underdevelopment, by unequal trade exchange.[5]

These influential ideas also triggered critique. Frank and Wallerstein was confronted by Wolf, who claimed they disregarded the relations and developments among “micro-populations” within the peripheral regions. Without a specific examination, according to Wolf, of the “range and variety of such populations, of their modes of existence before European expansion and the advent of capitalism, and of the manner in which these modes were penetrated, subordinated, destroyed, or absorbed, first by the growing market and subsequently by industrial capitalism… the concept of the ‘periphery’ remains as much of a cover term as ‘traditional society’”.[6]

Simultaneously as Frank rose to fame, traditions of peasant studies in Russia and Eastern Europe, was internationally (re)discovered. In Eastern Europe the plight of rural masses in under-industrialized regions remained urgent well into the interwar years. A school of  “populist” agrarian economists developed in 19th and early 20th century Russia, focusing on the way family farms operated, creating special economic structures. It was observed in central Europe and published in German[7]. By the late 1960s the debate on the agrarian question and the issue of peasantries under capitalism emerging in Russia as well as debates among German Social Democrats in the 1890s came to influence the rise of international peasant studies.[8]

 The East-European Peasant study tradition was related to, and basically opposed to classical Marxism. The paradigmatic issue of the development on the Russian countryside after abolition of serfdom in 1861 – Shanin characterized fine the siècle Russia as a model “development society – triggered a politically loaded struggle between Marxists and Narodniks (populists).[9]  According to Lenin’s reading of regional Russian statistics, presented 1899 in his  Development of Capitalism in Russia, agricultural production was already dominated by peasant-turned-capitalists who employed wage labor. In the differentiation of the peasantry, Lenin saw the beginnings of its proletarianization and disappearance: He saw no direct link from the Russian peasant village to socialism. Social differentiation was to develop first. 

The Narodniks contested this and the most prominent member of the school of populist Russian economists, Alexander Chayanov, writing in the 1920s, gave this alternative view a theoretical backing. Chayanov used the same statistics as Lenin, to show that Russia was still, before the revolution, dominated by peasant family farms. The peasant farms were household product/consumption units and worked according to another modus operandi than capitalist enterprises. As only family labor was used, concepts like “wage” and “profit” had no real meaning for them. They determined their level of work (drudgery) against, the utility consisting of the consumables made available. The family’s inner demography, its over time changing size and proportion between consumers and workers led to a cyclical demographic differentiation: In times of expanding family size, the family was able to increase the amount of land used, while they could contract it at other positions within the family life cycle. Chayanov’s peasant households were integrated to the commodity market, but not to any labor market (a remaining problem for theorists following Chayanov). As the households involved no exploiters needing profit for reproduction and as (family) labor was a fixed rather than variable cost, they competed successfully with capitalist enterprisers and while Chayanov tried to develop a theory of a “household mode of production” a more widely accepted point became, that these peasant family farms were compatible with a dominant capitalist system. While profit-seeking capital did not penetrate primary agricultural production in Chayanov’s model (because of the comparative advantage of the family economy), it penetrated the processing and distribution of output, the distribution of farm inputs and the financial institutions in contact with the farm family sector. Chayanov denied tendencies of concentration of agricultural land to larger capitalist farms, but he developed a theory of vertical concentration concerning the input and output contacts of the primary producers. These vertically integrated organizations could, Chayanov claimed, be cooperatively organized. This was the development of the agricultural development he envisaged in the NEP-environment Russia in which he was writing. He claimed a dualistic economic structure with household based primary producers, cooperatively owning large-scale processing operations (and distribution lines) would be the most competitive agricultural economic structure.[10]

Chayanov wrote about Russia and directly opposed Lenin’s analysis. Lenin’s writing formed a basis for Marxist orthodoxy, but equally influential for later debates was Karl Kautsky who also published his major contribution in 1899. Sharing Lenin’s theoretical framework, Kautsky’s Die Agrarfrage reflected his interpretation of rural development in western continental Europe rather than Russia. Kautsky problematized the fact that in his time of writing there was no tendency for small scale (peasant) producers to vanish in continental Western Europe. He withheld that large-scale capitalist farms were superior to smallholdings, but he listed a number of causes, which prolonged the survival of the peasants, for example their ability to put in more labor per worker, the switch to labor intensive dairy farming triggered by the influx of cheap grain from overseas, and the fact that large farms buttressed the formation of smallholdings as smallholding families provided low cost labor power for large landowners. Thus, smallholders sold labor power rather than farm goods. Regarding vertical integration his reasoning resembled Chayanov’s, but his conclusions were spelled out differently, He was not optimistic about producer cooperatives and rather supposed mortgage institutes and what later would be called agribusiness would dominate the smallholders. He could not foresee the technical developments leading to situations where optimum size farms could be handled by households only, and while he prognosticated a prolonged survival of peasants, he insisted that nothing but misery awaited them[11]. In the intense German debate on the virtues of small and large farms, he maintained Marxian orthodoxy: smallholdings were to succumb and land should be nationalized. In the end, it has been held, his analysis was circumscribed by its relation to the formation of the programme for the Social Democratic party.[12]

The translation to English of some of Chayanov’s most important texts in 1966, had strong impact on western scholars. For long, the writings of social scientists and historians focusing the rural development remained a proxy debate between Lenin and Chayanov or between Marxist and “populist” (peasant “essentialist”) theories or adaptations of such theories on cases in regions of the developing world[13]. Teodor Shanin was a central figure. He adhered to the Chayanovian camp and wrote extensively on the relations between the peasantry in Russia and the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the development in the 1920s[14]. He introduced East European sociologists and economists writing on rural issues and he edited a widely read collection, Peasants and peasant societies in 1971, where he delivered a synthetic (inductive) definition of peasantry with four criteria: The peasant family farm is the basic unit in the social organization; agriculture is the main occupation fulfilling most of consumption needs; a traditional culture connected to lifestyle in small communities, a underdog position to some kind of elites.[15] In 1986 he reissued the 1966 English edition of Chayanov’s Theory of the peasant Economy, and in 1988 he wrote, together with Hamza Alavi, the foreword to the first English translation of Kautsky’s Agrarian Question. Finally he played a crucial role in the launching in 1973 of the principal journal of the topic: The Journal of Peasant Studies, where he was one of three founding editors.[16] He did not stay long on board, however, rather the journal was edited for decades by Marxists; Terence Byre, Henry Bernstein and Tom Brass. 

Several proposals were launched to accommodate the persisting existence of peasant (and modern family farm) agriculture under capitalism. Few, not even Shanin, went as far as Chayanov who proposed an actual peasant mode of production[17]. The common Marxist approach was that it “is impossible to specify distinctly ‘peasants’ relations of production” since the conditions for peasant households were determined by the social formation at large (e.g. feudal or capitalist) which they existed in[18]. Henry Bernstein argued that peasants were “disguised” wage laborers, who produced for a market, which through a mechanism of unequal exchange robbed them of the surplus, so only the reciprocal of a wage remained. A similar line of thought connected to Chayanov and Kautsky: Agrarian capital fled from primary production, where economics of scale was small and peasants not insisting on profits could dominate. Instead it came to act via mortgage institutes, processing industries and distribution spheres which siphoned off surplus from the primary producers. Not only did peasant, or small-scale farming, thrive under capitalism; in this super-functionalist analysis, capitalist agribusiness preferred dealing with (powerless) smallholders.[19]

Yet another approach was to speak about simple commodity producers. Simple commodity production was viewed as a form of production, defined by a double specification of the production unit and the social formation; i.e. the unit’s relations to the society at large. In Harriet Friedmann’s interpretation simple commodity producers are household units of production fully integrated in a capitalist economy. As an analytical model the simple commodity producing household is fully specialized and produces only for the market. Its relations to the economy at large are based on commodity exchange, mobility of resources and competition. Simple commodity producers adapt to competitive product prices and factor prices, including wage levels as they occasionally employ wage laborers and as off-farm wages due to the mobility of factors determines the opportunity cost of farm work. Each unit’s aim is to reproduce itself and survive as an independent, integrated production and consumption unit. To do so, it has to be competitive and devoted to reducing costs. According to Friedmann these characteristics gives it as strong a bias towards rational investment, mechanization and increasing productivity as capitalist farms.[20]

The Chayanovian influence is apparent. Friedmann holds that the household production unit determines within itself the distribution of total incomes between capital replacement and personal consumption and that, as profit is not a reproduction criterion for the unit, it will reproduce itself at lower costs than capitalist firms.[21] Given their cost advantages and similar technical levels, the simple commodity producers tended, according to Friedmann, to compete out capitalist large-scale agricultural producers. She showed that mid-west US family farms in the late 19th century pressed both large American wheat “bonanzas” and east German Junkers out of business.[22] These family farmers were not peasants according to Friedmann. Contrary to peasants they were fully “commodified”.

A reason why the proxy discussion between Lenin and Chayanov remained important, was the strong Marxian influence in western academia. The discussion was framed in Marxist terminology, which even the Chayanovian Shanin used. While Chayanov writing the 1920s, despite arguably being a marginalist economist, spelled out much of his writing in Leninist terms, Shanin similarly sought support in Marx’s later writing for his view that the Russian peasant villages could well have played a role in the transformation to socialism without the passing of a capitalist “stage”. [23] As indicated by Lehmann’s categorization of peasant studies as dominated by “Chayanovian Marxism” and by the clear influence of Chayanov upon for example Friedmann’s writing, the gulf between Marxists and populists certainly did not exclude co-influence.[24]

For sociologists focusing development in Western Europe, these theoretical contributions provided insights as to why industry-like concentration in farming did not develop there either. Friedmann as well as Djurfeldt directly addressed the question why seemingly outdated types of production units, peasant or family farms, prospered within advanced capitalism. In fact, there have been interpretations arguing that small commodity producers (or even peasants) survived (if not prospered) under dominance of (some forms of) socialism as well.[25]

Thematic changes within and beyond the peasant study tradition

The themes of study have changed. If we determine what studies of contemporary peasant or rural societies mean today according to the content of two leading journals, the following picture emerges. 

474 original articles were published in the latest 13 volumes (2005-2017) of Journal of Peasant Studies, which are not covered by bibliographic surveys. This journal almost exclusively focused on the global south. The dominating theme was land right conflicts, “new enclosures” and land grabbing. 34 % of articles covered these themes. Other major themes concerned environmental issues (16 % of the articles); food security, food sovereignty, food regime analysis (14 %); development policy (12 %); agricultural commercialization (11 %). Inequality, governance (state and local), and everyday political expression and resistance were each covered in 6-8 % of the articles. Gender issues and migration was covered, but to limited extent. In the early 2000’s quite a few articles had historical or historiographical content.

In Sociologia Ruralis, which only exceptionally covers other macro regions than Europe, 216 original articles were published in the eight latest volumes (2010 to 2017). The two most frequent topics were food sovereignty/security/regimes (18 % of all) and environmental issues (12 %). Other common themes were identity and migration, but also agricultural policy, multi-functionality of farming and knowledge/science related to agriculture and rurality. 

The striking similarity between the two journals is the dominance of food related studies and articles devoted to environmental issues. Bordering the latter in Sociologia Ruralis are studies related to ethics and animal welfare. Studies on ethics, gender, group identity and everyday politics/resistance are not overwhelmingly many now either, but they were, like environmental studies, almost non-existing in the “classic” period.[26] On the other hand, studies discussing modes or forms of production are absent today.

Studies on social movements and land conflicts express continuation of earlier topics, but present studies concern rights, rather than politics in its traditional meaning, and politics as such is understood as “governance”. This reflects that present social movements are different from those, which involved peasants in the first three quarters of the 20th century. Present day movements are either local, focusing specific causes (anti-dam, anti-power plant) or nationwide or even transnational and focusing implications of the emerging food regime, food sovereignty or anti-globalization more generally.[27] Their goals have changed and it seems as a major social movement like MST in Brazil does not strive for political power by building political parties or engaging in guerrilla warfare, but for carving out space for autonomy. To do so, they try to formulate and mediate their own history, and this implies they are formulating their identity.[28]

This means that the subject matter of “social movement”, have changed. Similarly, the environmental problems have grown more acute than in the 1970s. Food production and food distribution is reorganized in new ways with new consequences. Large scale industrially organized capitalist farming, which had been pressed to the background since the farm crisis of the 1880s and 1930s has returned in full vigor[29]. Capitalism penetrates the globe more intensively than before and land grabbing in its specific present forms related to immanent food crises and biofuel agendas is also a new phenomenon. All this represent changes of subject matter needed to be analyzed. In short, one cause for changing topical content of rural studies is that phenomena of the world objectively have changed and that peoples’ and or societies’ behavior has changed. 

The collapse of Soviet socialism affected the retreat of Marxist scholarship in the west.[30] Similarly, the rise of scholarship in postcolonial regions fostered the rise of subaltern studies and this changed research agendas. These two developments as well, represented material changes, but, connected to them, epistemological changes also occurred and they influenced research agendas within rural studies. Views connected to concepts of post modernism, cultural turn and constructionism entered contemporary and historical rural studies. 

The change was more gradual than sudden. An epistemological battle raged on the pages of Journal of Peasant Studies in the 1990s.  Tom Brass was one of the editors at that time. As an orthodox Marxist he defied “postmodern” approaches, regretting that leftists referred to Foucault rather than to Marx. He also fought against (Chayanovian) “populists and claimed that the postmodern and subaltern writers had reinvented populist peasant essentialism and were responsible for peasants being “reconstituted by academic discourse simply as cultural subjects emblematic of gender/ethnic/regional/national identity”. He meant that, for example, the notions of everyday resistance and the Weapons of the weak, published by James Scott in 1985 pointed in this direction. Brass manifested his opinion by publishing massive amounts of self-penned articles in the journal under his own editorship. However, the pages had already been opened for the other views. Articles pointing towards the subaltern studies were published already in the 1970s and Scott and Kerkvliet had edited a special issue on everyday forms of peasant resistance in 1986.[31] Conflicts between Marxists and “neo-populists” concerning for example questions on land reform, and the possibilities of small scale peasant agriculture has continued well into the new millennium.[32]

There are several continuities between the agenda of the studies in the 1970s and the contemporary thems. Land conflict studies, for one thing, are not new.  Fairbarn et al labels the land grab studies from circa 2005 and onwards, the “third wave of dispossession studies”. The first wave was the common Marxist interest, (from the publication of Maurice Dobb’s Studies in the Development of Capitalism in the 1940s to the Brenner debate of the 1980s) in dispossession through enclosures in the development of capitalism in Europe. A second wave concerned dispossessions in the global south in the 1980s and 1990s related to emerging new political movements and ”development-induced displacement”. [33]

Secondly, the present view of social movements and peasant resistance did not develop out of the blue. According to James Scott the preoccupation with peasant revolutions and formally organized uprisings of the 1970s was related to the experience of the Vietnam war. In its place Scott highlighted the anarchic non-revolutionary forms of “everyday” peasant resistance.[34] Based on his south-East Asia studies Scott rather connected to E.P. Thompson’s moral economy concept, which he applied to peasants in order to develop a kind of political theory for the Chayanovian Peasant. The moral economy approach suggested that peasants – who concentrated on risk avoidance and securing subsistence ­– like other poor people, normally held (and when hard pressed vividly expressed) the view that bare subsistence was their fundamental right, which the superiors (the state) could not be allowed to take away from them.[35] Related to this was a peasants’ quest for autonomy (expressed by Scott in the form of peasants’ search for “non-state places”, when the state power was expansive),  which later was to form a strong basis for the “new” social movements being recently so much studied. [36]

The peasant households’ struggle for autonomy is furthermore the distinguishing feature in Jan Douwe van der Ploeg’s definition of the “peasant condition”. One important aspect of this quest for autonomy is the “construction and maintenance of a self-controlled resource base”, related to this is the development of relations to markets and in general to the outer world in a way to allow for maximum flexibility. Another important element in Ploeg’s definition is “co-production”, reflecting “interaction between man and nature” which also “shapes the social into specific forms: the artisan nature of the process of production, the centrality of craftsmanship and the predominance of family farms are closely interrelated with co-production and the co-evolution of man and living nature”.  Yet another aspect is that the elements of the resource base “is not separated into opposed and contradictory elements (such as labor and capital, or manual and mental labor”. The resources “represent an organic unity” and Chayanovian internal balances are important.[37]

Ploug’s analysis thus connects directly to the Chayanovian tradition, but also to the agroecological current which has developed since the 1980s. For Eduardo Sevilla Guzmán and Graham Woodgate the science of agroecology is not separated from its politics and practice and in their words, it “promotes the ecological an management of biological systems through collective forms of social action, which redirect the course of coevolution between nature and society in order to address the ‘crisis of modernity”.[38] They “distinguish three core dimensions: productive/ecological, socioeconomic, and sociocultural/political “ and  state that all dimensions “build from critiques of globalized, industrial systems of food and fiber production, distribution and consumption”. [39] They draw up a lineage of their movement/theoretical package all the way from 19th century Russian “narodnism “.  Presently, of course, this direction or school is notable within the earlier described environmentalist direction of contemporary rural studies, unifying it both with the Chayanovian tradition and classical Marxist Capitalism critique.  

A final important continuity concerns food regime analysis, which was developed in the early 1980s by Friedmann (1982, 1987) and later elaborated further by her and Philip Mc Michael.

The British “workshop of the world” dominated Friedmann’s first food regime. The Brits sacrificed their farm sector and instead, pressed down industrial wage costs by importing cheap foods: vegetable fats, fruits and stimulants from peripheral colonies, wheat from settlers’ colonies and the USA. Fitting institutional rules, (free trade, and gold standard) was established.[40]

With the First World War this regime collapsed and in the wake of the interwar crisis regulated agricultural sectors with amounting surpluses took form in the new dominating power, the USA, and in much of Western Europe. In the post war food regime, trade was regulated and western food surpluses were transferred as aid to developing countries. To selected countries (for example Mexico and India, but also Spain) green revolution technological packages were exported and it is argued that these countries attained a client role in the cold war.[41]

With the crises of the 1970s, the cracking of the Soviet hemisphere and renewed globalization, this second food regime succumbed and yet another (much disputed) regime took form. Now giant corporations rather than nation states play crucial roles, and the picture is split. Expensive foods are air-transported across the globe for providing rich households; bulk products provide insufficient or inadequate nutrition to masses of poor and obesity exists alongside undernourishment and the bio-fuel market competes with food production, a competition manifested in the land grabs. Counter trends such as slow food or food sovereignty movements arise in turn, partly to be appropriated by the large transnational food chains like Tesco, Sainsbury and Wal-Mart.[42]

It is interesting to note, that the food regime concept emanates from historically oriented studies in the 1970s. It is clear that Friedmann’s concept is connected to her writing in the 1970s on the establishment of family farmers in the North American plains from the 1870s. They became dominant actors on a world wheat market that was established thanks to the transport revolution, which lowered freight costs on new rail lines and transatlantic steamships and formed the basis of the first food regime. 

The rise and fall (?) of an agricultural history tradition in Economic History: The Swedish case

The interest in European agricultural history, dealing with its social, demographic and economic aspects as well as more narrowly with technology, field systems and yields rose from the 1960s. The Agrarian History of Western Europe A.D. 500-1850 by Slicher van Bath, published in English in 1963, was very influential[43]. Under Slicher van Bath’s leadership a department of agrarian history was established in Wageningen, and starting already in 1958 a series of mostly regional Dutch agrarian history studies were produced.[44] In Britain the raised interest was manifested by the starting, in 1967, of the publication of the massive collective effort The agrarian history of England and Wales. Many Economic historians were active here, and the center of interest was on a period of perceived intensive agrarian change, namely the 18th century when an “agricultural revolution” was claimed to have occurred. The British Agricultural History Review, which, like its German counterpart had been issued since the early 1950s, had been dominated by “agronomical-historically” inclined articles, but increasingly it dealt with agricultural-economic history matters and already in the mid-1950s articles using the term “agricultural revolution” showed up in a title in the Economic-historical flagship of Britain, Economic History Review.[45] By economic historians like Gordon Mingay and Eric Jones this agricultural revolution was causally linked to the industrial revolution. The British economic historians defined the agricultural revolution as a brief period, when productivity and production in agriculture grew substantially, although more holistic interpretations occurred. The change into more intensive rotations with little fallow and cultivation of fodder crops on the arable was viewed as its core, but pure technological advances were also addressed and many meant that parliamentary enclosures – consolidations and privatization of land use – and the establishment of large scale manorial farming was crucial as a pre-requisite for these productivity increasing changes to come about.[46] Others disagreed and dated the revolution earlier.[47] The agricultural revolution and its relation to the industrial breakthrough became a central topic in Economic History writing at the time and by the 1970s  and was treated in the reference books of the era[48]

Some Economic historians, not least representatives of the Annales school dealt with longer term changes or continuities. At the forefront in the 1960s and 1970s rose Malthusian long cycle interpretations of European demographic and agricultural development inspired by findings in the 1930s by Wilhelm Abel, among others. It was later developed by Ladurie and the interest was turned towards the break, by the 18th century of this long term cycle, that is, more or less the suggested era of agricultural revolution.[49]

Like the rise in peasant studies in the 1970s, the simultaneous expansion of interest in European agricultural history may be connected to post war decolonisation and developments in the global south.[50] Certainly the Marxian revival was of importance. A decisive moment was the symposium on The transition from feudalism to capitalism, arranged in 1954 as a reaction to Maurice Dobb’s Studies in the development of capitalism  published in 1946.[51] Dobb identified feudalism with serfdom (regardless of the form of rent). Resembling Lenin he stressed social differentiation of the peasantries, which gained pace when feudal burdens were eased, following struggle over the rent between peasants and lords. He downplayed the dissolving influence of the feudalism, exerted by expansion of trade, a tradition Paul Sweezy had inherited from the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne[52].

Sweezy’s circulation sphere interpretation connected to the above described dependency school and world system analysis. It was confronted by Robert Brenner who stressed the importance of inner class relations within compared European regions for developmental outcomes. Brenner also challenged the Malthusian related interpretations suggested by for example Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.[53]

Agricultural development is still discussed within economic history, but while the general interest in agricultural and rural history has risen, with new conference series, new journals and recent multi-country research programs, it is clear that the economic history approach to it is less prominent than before; other problematizations, environmental, political and cultural heritage studies have expanded. 

 This rise and relative demise of an Economic-historical interpretation of agricultural history occurred in many countries. Sweden is, I argue, a particularly clear and concrete case, and that probably had to do with the fact the autonomous Economic History departments were founded in the Swedish Universities in the 1950s. Elsewhere such departments were very rare, outside Great Britain. 

Up to the late 1950s agricultural history in Sweden had been dominated by historical geographers, engaged in the in the interpretation of the unique collections of 17 century village and farm level maps and by practitioners of ethnology (German Volkskunde) who studied settlement structures, agricultural practices and implements. The ethnologists’ aim was to save knowledge of ancient traditions, which modernization threatened to cut off . [54] Like the geographers they were interested in the functioning of preindustrial society rather than its diachronic developmentThe relation between industrial capitalism and peasant culture was an embarking point for them, rather than a problem for research. From the late 1950s the program faded.

In contrast, the focus of the economic historians was on change. The agricultural economic historians of the 1970s, like their few forerunners in the late 1950s and 1960s, used written documentary sources and most of their numerous dissertations covered restricted localities or regions. They centered on the late 18th and early 19th century and on how the preconditions for the industrial breakthrough developed internally in the pre-industrial rural society.[55]

They challenged previous perceptions which had generalized the picture of the pre-19th century rural society in Sweden in gloomy colors, dominated by destructive mercantilist regulations, and a comparatively free but backward peasantry, who’s possible entrepreneurial aspirations were effectively blocked by the collective rule of the village communities they were involved in. Eli Heckscher, the “father” of Swedish economic history, had claimed that Sweden “…had to pay for the advantage of a free peasantry, with great backwardness in agricultural technology and, following from this, a worse standard of food consumption for people in general, than would otherwise had been possible.[56] This idea of  “progressive oppression”, was opposed by the 1970s generation.

The strong Marxist current in West European academic life since the late 1960s had great influence. Lars Herlitz’ regional study of a western region depicted Sweden as a feudal society, although large parts of the peasantry were freeholders. He showed how the rent/tax pressure on freeholds decreased and interpreted this in Marxian terms as peasants retaining growing shares of the investable surplus beyond reproduction needs. He went on to show that clearance of land and increase of production was stronger on freeholds than on manorial land cultivated by tenants who experienced no fall in rents. Thus, the limitation of feudal expansion and the reduction of feudal rent was seen as a prime mover towards economic development.[57] Herlitz’ study was followed by numerous others in the late 1970s and early 1980s and mostly they shared ideas of progressive peasants who more or less transformed themselves into capitalist farmers. 

The term agricultural revolution had, been used in the interwar period by an ethnologist and a geographer referring to the radical enclosures of the 19th century which had strong effects on settlement structures and field systems.[58] They distinguished a “before” and “after” the revlution, without any diachronic perspective. The dynamic British version of the concept was adopted by Christer Winberg in 1975 and popularized in a textbook by Fridholm, Isacson and Magnusson (1976), which linked it to the industrial breakthrough. Isacson and Magnusson soon connected to the influential international debate on proto industrialization. They established contacts with German proto industry researchers and published a book on Scandinavian proto industry in 1987.[59] They adhered to the suggestions of how protoindustry paved the way for “proper” industrialization[60], and argued that wealthy peasants accumulated capital and that agrarian expansion created markets for both capital and consumer goods. They stressed the dynamism of the loosening of the feudal bonds, with falling rents, which meant rising investable funds among the peasants so that production could increase (through clearing of new and intensified rotations). This led, they argued, to a cumulative process, whereby the retained surplus amongst peasants increased even more. Following Dobb, they stressed that social differentiation developed with the increase of production. 

Of the numerous studies that followed, Carl-Johan Gadd’s dissertation from 1983 became the most influential. It connected to Ester Boserup’s theory of links between population pressure, intensification, length of fallows and technology. Gadd focused peasant family farm agriculture and showed strong rises of production and productivity following intensified land use, but also ecological problems arising from land clearance aiming at one-sided concentration on grain cultivation. He later made the authoritative synthesis of the 18th-19th century Swedish agrarian history in the third volume of the Agricultural history of Sweden. Symptomatically, it was given the title Den agrara revolutionen (The agricultural revolution).[61]

While Swedish economic historians writing agricultural history in the 1970s and 1980 were influenced by Marxist currents, few took much notice of the challenges provided by Chayanov’s revival. Medick used Chayanov when analyzing the proto industrial household[62], but neither the Swedes writing about proto industry, nor most of those writing agricultural history did.[63] This probably had to do with the fact that the   Swedish economic historical-agricultural history project more or less ended with industrialization. The period from the late 19th century onwards was rarely treated.

In the 1980s the wave of Swedish agrarian economic history focusing the late 18th and early 19th century faded. The Marxian influence diminished. The Brenner debate was little reflected on by Swedish (economic) historians. Brenner’s thesis used a narrow definition of “peasants”, which excluded their participation in development trajectories.[64] The agenda of the 70s and 80s generation in Sweden was the opposite: to show that peasantries could be transformed into entrepreneurial farmers. Thus, while the Swedish economic  historians of the 1970s and 1980s can be located within the Marxist tradition in Shanin’s list of peasantry conceptualizations, doubts about what the peasants turned into can be discerned.[65]

Apart from British economic history and German proto-industrialist historians, inspiration surely came from the French Annales tradition. Duby was widely read as was Ladurie and Braudel, mostly in translated form as French like German was on retreat as academic language in Sweden .[66] With some exceptions, it was a belated influence, which rather contributed to dissolving the 1970s program than refining it. From the late 1980s Swedish (economic) historians started to write about agriculture in the industrial era in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now the peasant theory concepts became relevant and both Djurfeldt and Morell presented Chayanovian inspired interpretations of 20th century Swedish rural development. Sommestad explored gender relations, which had been neglected in the 1970s and 1980s wave of agricultural history. The writings on industrial age agricultural history in Sweden was summarized and synthesized in Morell’s fourth volume of the Agricultural history of Sweden.[67]

At Lund University, the focus on the agricultural transformation in the late 18th and early 19th century was renewed, in the early 2000s.[68] There are more exceptions, not least has rural development in some African and Latin American countries – since the late 1980s up till today, been studied by economic historians – but largely, agriculture came to play a reduced role in Swedish – as in international – economic history. Instead, through the establishment in the mid-1990s of a transdisciplinary chair in agrarian history in the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, a new arena was built up. Since then agricultural history in Sweden has been thematically varied. Partly this reflects that scholars involved at the agrarian history section of the Agricultural Science University had a very varied disciplinary background (including art history, agronomics, biology, archaeology, ethnology and geography).

By the early 2000s, the agricultural revolution concept still preoccupied Swedish agricultural historians. Closer inspection reveals that the term is, used in a rather metaphoric concept. In many cases it seems to connote an era rather than a process, namely – just as among the interwar time geographers and ethnologists – the period of radical enclosures in the 19th century. Neither the social and economic effects nor the causes of the revolution are much discussed. 

Of 20 doctorate projects in agrarian history starting from 1994, none specifically address the agricultural revolution although several cover the period when it was supposed to have happened. Rather the dissertations have focused on certain themes or phenomena, sometimes during a fairly long period (one concerns summer farms and transhumance from the 1500s to the present). Six have concerned field systems, fencing or settlement structures, using various types of cadastral maps. Four concerned specific aspects of animal husbandry (for example the incidence of mistreatment of cattle). A couple of dissertations have treated gardening (market gardening in the 20th century and the prevalence of vegetable gardens in the pre-agricultural revolution landscape). A couple of projects concerned present-day ecological or cultural heritage problems. Two concerned agricultural technology (tractorization and the use of iron in medieval ploughs respectively). Only one project concerned development of agricultural production (in the 16th and 17th century) and only one specifically treated social issues.

One partial explanation for this evolvement is the strong influence of historical geographers. Another is the opening of the environmental and the cultural heritage education and research agenda. This reflected the launching of environmental and cultural heritage programs in the EU in the mid-90s, which created a market for teaching county administrations about older form of rural landscapes. Perhaps, also the development reflects that a programmatic idea of addressing certain agricultural-elements in an additive way, resembling the older ethnological approach, to some extent has governed the research agenda at the section of agrarian history at the University of Agricultural Sciences during its 24 years of existence.

In a comparative context what possibly distinguish the Swedish case is the unusually Marxist influenced focus on the agricultural revolution in the 1970s and early1980s (the concept was practically not used at all in neighbouring Scandinavian countries) and the meagre interest before the 1990s of more recent rural developments. The tendency away from economic agricultural history to a much more varied agenda including not only social but also ecological, cultural heritage and identity problematizations seems, however internationally general. It is hardly a coincidence that while the international economic history community normally talked about (and still talk about) agricultural history, which have an economic-sectorial flavor, the pan-European conferences arranged since 2010 are labelled rural history conferences, inviting much more of cultural and social agendas.


In the 1960s and 1970s there emerged a strong international trend of development studies, encompassing studies of peasantries in developing countries in the third world, where agriculture was mostly the dominant economic sector and source of people’s livelihood. The expanding interest among western sociologists, economists, historians and anthropologists was related to decolonisation and to national liberation movements and wars with peasant involvement. 

Two theoretical packages appeared. One was Marxist and reflected both the soviet legacy and a strong position of Marxism in academic life in western countries in this era. Marxist development theory of the 1960s had connections to Latin-American dependency theory and roots in the late 19th and early 20th century theorizing of the transformation of the peasant-dominated Russia. Essentially emerging from Russian economists’ discussions of the peasants’ prospects of remaining as a class and a productive element in the modern state, and of peasantries’ relation to capitalism (and socialism), the second theoretical package, the portal figure of which was Chayanov, was introduced to the western public in 1966. Many works, both theoretical and implementation studies were part of an on-going discussion between the Marxist view that peasantries would dissolve and disappear during capitalism, and the Chayanovian view, that they could survive and thrive. Fundamentally, these studies concerned the compatibility of peasantries – or modern family farming – with capitalism. 

By the 1980s these types of studies started to disappear or change focus and after a long process, rural studies mostly concern land grabbing, food sovereignty, global food regimes, environmental degradation, gender and local identity approaches and new types of social movements striving for autonomy rather than governmental power. 

The reasons are multifaceted. On the one hand real changes concerning environmental issues have occurred. Global capitalism now penetrates all parts of the world, global food trade reach out everywhere. Furthermore, an epistemological change has appeared. Marxism has been on the retreat among western universities for the last 30 years. The cultural turn, and theories, methods and views of the world and of knowledge connected to constructionism have entered into much of social research. This too, has changed focus on what is to be studied and with what methods. Closer inspection reveal, however, that there are many continuities from the 1970s onwards: New views on social movements started develop early, the food regime analysis has roots at least from the 1980s, the food sovereignty approaches, the discussions about “new peasantries” and the incorporation of environmentalist concern, has links to Chayanovism, while Marxist influence is apparent in the vivid capital-globalization critique. 

The development is similar in historical studies. In the Swedish case, an older tradition of studies of preindustrial rural societies, aiming at understanding their way of functioning, before the modernist onslaught was replaced in the 1970s, by Marxist inspired studies focusing the role of rural actors in the process of change towards modernization and industrialization, and related to a debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Since the 1990s at least, these types of studies have again been replaced by works, which tend to describe continuities in preindustrial societies, rather than analyzing processes of change. Similarly, on the international scene, many studies concern the (in the wake of rising environmental concerns), functioning and resilience, that is essentially the continuities within pre-industrial (or post-industrial) societies rather that the developments of change they were involved in. Simplifying, one might state, that rural history started as studies focusing continuity, entered into a period when focus was on change, but has returned to study continuity again.

[1] Teodor SHANIN: “Peasantry. Delineation of a sociological concept and a field of study”, European Journal of Sociology, 12 (1971), pp. 289-300, esp. p. 289. The content lists of early volumes of Sociologia Ruralis, the journal of the European rural sociology association first published in 1960, shows articles either focusing farming or practical rural community issues (health, services, education etc.) within contemporary West European societies. 

[2] Robert REDFIELD: Peasant society and peasant culture, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press 1956, pp. 33, 35-39.

[3] Eric WOLF: Peasants, Prentice-Hall, 1966.

[4] Göran DJURFELDT: Gods och gårdar. Jordbruket i sociologiskt perspektiv, Lund, Arkiv 1994,  pp. 91-92.

[5] Paul BARAN: Utvecklingens politiska ekonomi, Stockholm, Zenit 1971 [1957]; André Gunder FRANK: The development of underdevelopment, Monthly Review Press 1966; Immanuel WALLERSTEIN: The modern world system 1. Capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European World-economy in the sixteenth century, New York, Academic Press, 1974. 

[6] Eric WOLF: Europe and the people without history, Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1997 [1982], p. 23.  

[7] Joseph NOU: The development of agricultural economics in Europe, Uppsala, 1967, (1967) pp. 455-493; Teodor SHANIN: “Peasantry”, p. 292.

[8] Teodor SHANIN: “Peasantry”. 

[9] Teodor SHANIN: Russia as a ‘developing society’. The roots of otherness: Russia’s turn of the century 1, London, MacMillan, 1986 [1985)Cf. Andrew COULSON: “The agrarian question: the scholarship of David Mitrany revisited”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 41 (2014), pp. 167-191.

[10] Alexander CHAYANOV: The theory of peasant economy. Daniel THORNER, Basile KERBLAY e R.E.F SMITH (eds.) With a new foreword by Teodor SHANIN, Madison, University of Visconsin Press, 1986. Cf. Göran DJURFELDT: “What happened to the agrarian bourgeoisie and rural proletariat under monopoly capitalism? Acta Sociologica, 24 (1981), pp. 167-191. Concerning the problem of the missing labour market, see Utsa PATNAIK: “Neo-populiam and Marxism: The Chayanovian view of the agrarian question and its fundamental fallacy”, Journal of Peasant Studies 6 (1979), pp. 375-420. This division of labour between household based primary producers and cooperatively controlled large scale processing units materialized in many cases, most notably perhaps in Denmark. See e. g. Flemming JUST: “The Scandinavian food system between organization and state”, en Sven-Olof OLSSON (ed.) Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39, London, Routledge, 121-136.

[11] Karl KAUTSKY: The agrarian question 1, London, Swan 1988 [1899]. Cf. Göran DJURFELDT, “ What happened…”.

[12] Athar HUSSAIN y Keith TRIBE: Marxism and the agrarian question, London, MacMillan, 1983. Cf. Hamza ALAVI y Teodor SHANIN: “Introduction” en Karl KAUTSKY: The Agrarian Question.

[13] Göran DJURFELDT:  Gods och gårdar. See also Henry BERNSTEIN y Terence BYRES: “From peasant Studies to agrarian change”, Journal of agrarian change 1 (2001) pp. 1-56, esp. p. 8.

[14] Teodor SHANIN:  The awkward class, Oxford: Clarendon, 1972; Teodor SHANIN: Russia as a ‘developing society’. The roots of otherness: Russia’s turn of century 1, London, MacMillan, 1986 [1985]; Teodor SHANIN: Russia 1905-07: Revolution as a moment of truth. The roots of otherness: Russia’s turn of century 2, London, MacMillan, 1986.

[15] Teodor SHANIN (ed.) Peasants and peasant societies, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988 [1971], pp. 3-5.

[16] According to Brass referring to the publisher Frank Cass, Shanin was the crucial actor behind the launching of the journal. See Tom BRASS: “The Journal of peasant studies: the third decade”, Journal of Peasant Studies 32 (2005), pp. 153-141.

[17] Teodor SHANIN: Russia as a ‘developing society’… p. 168

[18] Judith ENNEW, Paul HIRST e Keith TRIBE: “’Peasantry’ as an economic category”, Journal of Peasant Studies 4 (1977), pp. 310, 319.

[19] Bernsteins view in Henry BERNSTEIN: “African peasantries:  A theoretical framework”, Journal of Peasant Studies 6 (1979). For the rest see e.g. Kostas VERGOPOULOS “Capitalism and Peasant Productivity”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 5(1978), pp. 446-465 and Göran DJURFELDT: “What happened…”

[20] Harriett FRIEDMANN: World market, state and family farm: Social base of household production in the era of wage labour”, Comparative Studies of Society and History 20 (1978), pp. 545-586, esp. pp. 553-554; Harrriet FRIEDMANN: ”Household production and the national economy: Concepts for the analysis of agrarian formations”, Journal of Peasant Studies7 (1980).

[21] Apart from patriarchal relations within the unit no exploitative productive relation requesting surplus value is involved in the labour process, as those in charge of the unit and those working are the same persons. See Harriet FRIEDMANN: “Household production…”, pp. 169-170, 172-174). Intra household relations, concerning gender and generation, remained a black box in Marxian and Chayanovian analysis of the 1970s.

[22] Harriet FRIEDMANN: “ World market…”, pp. 556-568. Restated in Harriet FRIEDMANN: “The Family farm and the international food regimes”, en Teodor SHANIN(ed.):  Peasants and Peasant Societies, (second ed). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988, pp. 247-258.

[23] Teodor SHANIN:  “Marx, Marxism and the agrarian question: I Marx and the peasant commune”, History Workshop 12, (1981), pp. 108-128; Teodor SHANIN Late Marx and the Russian road. Marx and the peripheries of capitalism, London. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.

[24] David LEHMANN: ”Two paths of agrarian capitalism, or a critique of Chayanovian Marxism”, Comparative Studies of Society and History, 28 (1986), pp. 601-627.

[25] Ivan SZELÉNYI: Socialist Entrepreneurs. Embourgeoisement in rural Hungary, Madison, University of Visconsin Press, 1988S; Ildikó ASZTALOS MORELL: Emancipation’s dead-end roads? Studies in the formation and development of the Hungarian model for agriculture and gender (1956-1989), Uppsala, Uppsala University, 1999.

[26] Henry BERNSTEIN y & Terence BYRES: “From peasant studies…”, pp. 23, 28, 33. 

[27] Santurino M. BORRAS Jr: ”Agrarian change and peasant studies: Changes, continuities and challenges –­­ an introduction”, Journal of Peasant Studies 36 (2009), pp. 5-31.

[28] Markus LUNDSTRÖM: The making of reistance. Brazil’s landless movement and narrative enactment, Cham, Springer 2017.

[29] See e.g. Jan Doewe van der PLOEG: The New Peasantries: struggles for Autonomy and Sustainability in an Era of Empire and Globalization, London, Earthscan 2008.

[30]  Cf. Santurino M. BORRAS Jr: “Agrarian change…”,  p. 5

[31] Tom BRASS: ”The Journal…”, p. 161-167 (quote from p. 162); James SCOTT y Ben KERKVLIET (eds.): Everyday forms of peasant resistance in South-East AsiaJournal of Peasant Studies 13 (1986.

[32] See the critical reactions to the plead for African land reforms in Keith GRIFFIN, Azizur Rahman KHAN e Amy ICKOWITZ: “Poverty and the Distribution of Land”, Journal of Agrarian Change 2, 3 (2002), pp. 279-330 by John SENDER y Deborah JOHNSTON: “ Searching for a Weapon of Mass Production in Rural Africa:  Unconvincing Arguments for Land Reform”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 4 (2003) , pp. 142-164 and Terence J. BYRES: “Neo-classical Neo-Populism 25 Years on: Déjà Vu and Déja Passé. Towards a Critique”, Journal of Agrarian Change 4 (2004), pp. 17-44.

[33] Madelaine FAIRBARN: “Introduction: New directions in agrarian political economy”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 41 (2014), pp. 653-666. Cf. Maurice DOBB: Studies in the development of capitalism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1978 [1946) and Trevor ASTON y Charles PHILPIN (eds.): The Brenner debate: agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. 

[34] If this type of resistance was “primitive”, Scott is careful not to imply (as he means Hobsbawm does), that they were “backward” and later would give way to more “sophisticate forms”. See James SCOTT: Weapons of the Weak, Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, New Haven: Yale University Press (1985), esp. p. 273, chapter 2 and 8. Cf. Eric J. HOBSBAWM: Primitive Rebels, Manchester, Manchester University Press (1974) [1959].

[35] James SCOTT: The Moral Economy of the Peasant. Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia, New Haven: Yale University Press (1976), esp. p. 33.

[36] James SCOTT: The art of not being governed: An anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia, New Haven, Yale University Press 1990, esp. p. 13.

[37] Jan Doewe van der PLOEG: The New Peasantries, chapter 2. Quotes from pp. 25, 24.

[38] Eduardo SEVILLA GUZMÀN y Graham WOODGATE: “Acroecology: Foundations in Agrarian Social Thought and Sociological Theory”, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37, 1 (2013), pp. 32-44. First quote from   Eduardo SEVILLA GUZMÀN y Graham WOODGATE: “ Sustainable rural development: From industrial agriculture to agroecology”, en Michael REDCLIFT y Graham WOODGATE: The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1997, pp. 83-100, esp. pp. 93-94. 

[39] Eduardo SEVILLA GUZMÀN y Graham WOODGATE: “Agroecology…”, p. 33

[40] Harriet FRIEDMANN: “The family farm…”, pp. 251-252.

[41] Harriet FRIEDMANN: “ The political economy of food.: the rise and fall of the postwar international food order”, American Journal of Sociology, 88 (1982), pp. 248-286; Harriet FRIEDMANN: “The family farm…”, pp. 252-254;  Harriet FRIEDMANN y Philip MC MICHAEL: “Agriculture and the state system: the rise and flal of national agriculture, 1870 to the present, Sociologia Ruralis 29 (1989), pp. 93-117; Philip MC MICHAEL: “A food regime genealogy”, Journal of Peasant Studies 26 (2009), pp. 139-169, esp. pp. 145-146. Cf Ana CABANA y Alba DÌAZ- GEADA: “Exploring modernization. Agrarian facism in rural Spain, 1936-1951”, en Lourenzo FENANDÈZ-PRIETO, Juan PAN-MONTOJO e Miguel CABO (eds.):  Agriculture in the age of fascism, Turnhout, Brepols, 2014, pp. 189-207.

[42] Philip MC MICHAEL: “ A food regime…”, pp. 146-154.

[43] Bernard SLICHER VAN BATH: The agrarian history of Western Europe A.D. 500-1800, London: Edward Arnold, 1963.

[44] Afdelning Agrarische Geshiedenis and its series A.A.G Bijdragen.

[45] R.A. C. PARKER: ”Coke of Norfolk and the agricultural revolution”, Economic History Review 8 (1955), pp. 156-166.

[46] Gordon MINGAY: “The agricultural revolution in English history”, Agricultural History 37 (1963), pp. 123-133; J. D. CHAMBERS, y Gordon MINGAY: The agricultural revolution 1750-1880, London, B.T. Batsford, 1966; Mark OVERTON: Agricultural revolution in England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996. This interpretaion went back to Rowland EARNLE: English farming past and present, Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 2013 [1912] and indirectly to Arthur Young. See Robert ALLEN: “Tracking the agricultural revolution in England”, Economic History Review, 52 (1999), pp. 209-235.

[47] Eric KERRIDGE: The agricultural revolution, London, Alleen & Unwin, 1967; Robert ALLEN: Enclosure and the yeoman, Oxford, Oxford University Press; Robwert ALLEN: “Tracking…”. 

[48] See e. g. Paul BAIROCH: “Agriculture and the industrial revolution”, en Carlo M. CIPOLLA (ed.): The Fontana Economic Hitory of Europe 3. The Industrial revolution, London, Collins/ Fontana 1973, pp. 452-506. Bairoch traced the concept back to Marx.

[49] Wilhelm ABEL: Agricultural fluctuations in Europe from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, London, Methuen, 1980 [1935]; Emmanuel LE ROY LADURIE: The peasants of Laungedoc, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1980 [1966].

[50] Carl-Johan GADD y Ulf  JONSSON: ”Agrarian history as a sub-field of Swedish economic history”, Scandinavian Economic History Review 38 (1990), pp. 18-30, esp.  pp.19-20

[51] Maurice DOBB: Studies; Rodney HILTON: (ed.), The transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, London: NLB, 1976.

[52] Henri PIRENNE: The economic and social history of medieval Europe, London, K. Paul, Trenc, Trubner & co., 1936.

[53] Robert BRENNER: “Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe”, Past and Present, 70 (1976), pp. 30-74; Robert BRENNER: “The Origins of capitalist development: A critique of neo-Smithian Marxism”, New Left Review I/104 (2007). 

[54] Janken MYRDAL: “Agrarhistoriens ämnesbyte”, en Anders Perlinge (ed.): Janken Myrdal: Landbon, ladan och lagen och hägnaderna, arbetstiden och bygdelaget samt ytterligare 20 agrarhistoriska artiklar, Stockholm, KSLA, pp. 27-35  The Swedish ethnologists fit in conceptualizations of peasantry described in Teodor SHANIN: “Peasantry…”, p. 292 stemming from East–European ethnography and Western anthropology and approaching “peasants as the representatives of an earlier national tradition, preserved through ‘cultural lag’, by the inertia typical of peasant societies”.

[55] A comprehensive presentation of all major economic history works on agricultural history in Sweden up to the end of the 1980s is found in Carl-Johan GADD y Ulf JONSSON: “Agrarian history…”.

[56] Eli HECKSCHER Sveriges ekonomiska historia från Gustav Vasa, II:1, Stockholm, Bonniers, 1949,  p. 201.

[57] Lars HERLITZ Jordegendom och ränta, Göteborg, Göteborgs universitet, 1974.

[58] Åke CAMPBELL: Skånska bygder, Uppsala, 1928. Gunnar LINDGREN: ”Odlingssystemen i Västergötland före den agrara revolutionen”, Ymer, 1937;  

[59] Christer WINBERG: Folkökning och proletarisering, Göteborg, 1975; Merike FRIDHOLM, Maths ISACSON e Lars MAGNUSSON: Industrialismens rötter. Om förutsättningarna för den industriella revolutionen i Sverige Stockholm, Prisma, 1976; Maths ISACSON y Lars MAGNUSSON: Proto-industrialisation in Scandinavia, Leamington Spa, Berg, 1987.

[60] Peter KRIEDTE, Hans MEDICK e Jürgen SCHLUMBOHM: Industrialization before industrialization, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981, 141-142.

[61] An abridged version of the book is available in English. See Carl-Johan GADD “The agricultural revolution in Sweden 1700-1870”, en Janken Myrdal y Mats Morell (eds.): The agrarian history of Sweden: From 4000 BC to AD 2000. Lund, Nordic Academic Press, 2011, pp. 118-164

[62] Peter KRIEDTE, Hans MEDICK e Jürgen SCHLUMBOHM: Industrialization, pp. 41-43.

[63] There were exceptions. Köll’s dissertation on technology discussed “peasant theory” and later, Jonsson, Köll and Petterson published a book on the problems of a peasant based development model. See Ulf JONSSON, Anu-Mai KÖLL e Ronny PETTERSSON; Problems of a peasant-based development strategy, Geneve, Centre of International Economic History, 1983.

[64] See Brenners statement 1997 and the comments by Magnusson: Robert BRENNER: “Property relations and the growth of agricultural productivity in the late medieval and early modern Europe”, en Amit Badhuri y Rune Skarstein (eds.): Economic Development and Agricultural Productivity, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1997, pp. 9-4; Lars MAGNUSSON: “Comment”, en Amit BADHURI y Rune SKARSTEIN (eds.): Economic Development and Agricultural Productivity, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1997, pp. 42-44. 

[65] SHANIN: “Peasantry…”, pp. 291-292.

[66] Some works of these authors were translated to Swedish but only from the early 1980s: Georges DUBY: Guerriers et paysans VII-XIIème siècle, premier essor de l’économie européenne, Paris, Gallimard, 1973 in 1981, in 1981; Emmanuel LE ROY LADURIE: Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324, Paris, Gallimard, 1975 in 1980; (Ladurie 1975) in 1980; (Braudel 1967) Fernand BRAUDEL Civilisation matérielle et capitalisme (XVe – XVIIIe siècle) T. 1. Paris, Armand Colin, 1967 in 1982, to mention a few.

[67] Göran DJURFELDT: Gods och gårdar; Mats MORELL: “Family Farms and Agrarian Mechanization in Sweden Before World War II”, in Lars Jonung y Rolf Olsson (eds), The Economic Development of Sweden since 1870, London: Edward Elgar, 1997, pp. 67-86. Lena SOMMESTAD “Gendering Work, Interpreting Gender: The Masculinization of Dairy Work in Sweden, 1850-1950”, History Workshop Journal 37 (1994), pp 57-75. Morell’s volume of the agricultural history of Sweden is abridged in English in Mats MORELL: “Agriculture in industrial society 1870-1945”, en Janken MYRDAL y Mats MORELL (eds.): The agrarian history of Sweden: From 4000 BC to AD 2000, Lund, Nordic Academic Press 2011, pp. 165-213.

[68] Several dissertations and articles has been published, often focussing measurement and explanation of agricultural growth in Southern Sweden. See e.g.  Mats OLSSON y Patrick SVENSSON: “Agricultural growth and institutions: Sweden 1700-1860”, European review of Economic History 14 (2010), pp. 275-304.


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