Robert Brenner (1979): Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe, Past & Present 70 (Feb.), pp. 30-75 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/650345>
- T. H. Aston (Editor) and C. H. E. Philpin, eds. (1987): The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press: 0521349338) <http://amzn.to/2ljFIo5>
- Dietrich Vollrath (2017): Who Are You Calling “Malthusian”? <https://growthecon.com/blog/Malthus/>
- Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor (2011): Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch <https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.101.5.2003>
- Daniel Little (2010): The Brenner Debate Revisited <http://understandingsociety.blogspot.com/2010/01/brenner-debate-revisited.html>
- Jonathan Conning (2007): On ‘The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom’ and the Roads to Agrarian Capitalism: Domar’s Hypothesis Revisited <http://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Workshops-Seminars/Development/conning-041101.pdf>
Robert Brenner: Is It a Good Thing If Your Labor Becomes More Valuable?:
- The pre-Brenner story of the collapse of serfdom and the rise of wage labor
- Bubonic Plague: thereafter labor doesn’t have to enserf itself for protection but can bargain for freedom
- And then bargain for wages
- Wait a minute! In 1550 labor of Africans became much more valuable!
The Brenner Thesis:
- Late-Roman consolidation of “serfdom”
- Medieval entrenchment of “villainage”
- Rising commercial prosperity 950-1350?
- Effect on western European rural institutions?
- 1348 and All That
- Peasant prosperity?
- Or from labor lords to landlords?
- And when?
- Post-1100 largely-Germanic migration to the east…
- The grain-shortage North Sea area
- The “Second Serfdom”
- The steppe frontier:
- Avars, Magyars, Mongols, the Golden Horde, the Tatars, the Hetmanate, and the Hosts...
Dietz Vollrath (2017): Who Are You Calling "Malthusian"?: "North and Thomas in The Rise of the Western World...
argue that changes in population, by changing relative wages and the bargaining power of peasants, were instrumental in changing institutions in Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. People like Robert Brenner and Guy Bois took issue with this explanation (and each other), arguing that Postan and Le Roy Ladurie (and North and Thomas by extension) were ignoring the issue of class in explaining changes in relative wages and the institutions governing labor. Glossing this “Brenner Debate” is well beyond the scope of this post, so suffice it to say that Brenner and Bois argue that changes in population are not sufficient to change institutions. The effect of population changes on labor conditions depended on the actual political power of peasants, which was not necessarily affected by population. See the compilation here for all you’d ever want to know about this debate...