The Prudent Peasant: New Findings on Open Fields
Donald N. McCloskey
The Journal of Economic History, 1991, vol. 51, issue 2, 343-355
The usual picture of the medieval peasantry is based on nineteenth-century scholarship, which has proven difficult to dislodge from educated minds. This article continues the revision of an important detail in the picture, the scattering of plots in open fields. Some recent work on the subject by Robert Allen and Gregory Clark is midly disputed, and new evidence is presented that risk avoidance is the key to understanding peasant behavior. The reason for the scattering was not sentiment or socialism. Peasants were not perhaps rational in every detail; but they were prudent.
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