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The French economy in the longue durée. A study on real wages, working days and economic performance from Louis IX to the Revolution (1250-1789)

Ridolfi, Leonardo (2017) The French economy in the longue durée. A study on real wages, working days and economic performance from Louis IX to the Revolution (1250-1789). Advisor: Nuvolari, Prof. Alessandro. Coadvisor: Vindigni, Prof. Andrea . pp. 311. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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Abstract

This study addresses a gap in the existing literature concerning pre-industrial economic growth in France. While traditionally research focused on measuring the output of specific regions (Baehrel, 1961; Le Roy Ladurie, 1966) or the estimation of national indices of production by the end of the pre-industrial era (Toutain, 1961, 1987), this study is an attempt to provide a comprehensive reconstruction of the main contours of economic growth in France from the phase of early state formation to the Revolution. In Chapter 1 we trace the history of real wages for male construction workers and farmers in France from 1250 to 1789. Using a new extensive body of empirical evidence it is shown that real wages were trendless between the second half of 1300 and the end of the eighteenth century. We detect a single episode of sustained growth between the 1280s and the 1350s and document the existence of a large realwage gap between France and the Continent (a French Little divergence) in the post-plague era during the Hundred Years’ War. In addition, comparing wages with population we found that the inverse relationship predicted by the Malthusian theory was an exception rather than the rule. In Chapter 2 we provide a broad characterization of working time in pre-industrial Europe concentrating on three different dimensions of time: calendar, actual and implied working year. Looking at the experience of construction workers, we provide the first direct estimates of trends in calendar, actual and implied working year in France and England from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. By comparing the patterns of change of time-use, and their response to variations in the institutional and market conditions, we identify two distinct regimes of industriousness featuring France and England in the pre-industrial era. In France, expansions in the offer of labour were associated with raising inflation and economic hardship. By contrast, in England, we found evidence of the existence of two phases where workers supplied more days of work to the market than required by basic household subsistence. The first episode, never documented yet, occurred between 1400 and 1500, while the second corresponded to the industrious revolution originally described by De Vries (2008). Different hypotheses are discussed to shed light on the origin of surplus labour input and its implications on the structure of consumption and production. Chapter 3 presents new estimates of agricultural and total output per capita in France between 1280 and 1789 using the demand side approach. Overall, we find that in the course of almost six centuries, the most significant gains in living standards were reached between the 1280s, when royal power in France reached its medieval apogee, and the 1340s when the Black Death of 1348 and to a larger extent the Hundred Years’ War interrupted it. Following literary evidence, we suggest that in this phase, output gains were associated with the particular form of evolution of the French monarchical state, and its ramifications on real wages through changes in class structure and property relationship. Subsequently, our estimates do not exhibit any sustained trend improvement in the levels of output per capita. This evolution is consistent with the characterization of French economic growth put forward by Le Roy Ladurie (1966, 1977) arguing that the pre-industrial French economy was virtually a stagnating, growthless system.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
PhD Course: Economics
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/211
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2017 15:22
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/211

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