Regions, Institutions, and Agrarian Change in European History

Rosemary L. Hopcroft
An institutional approach to agricultural development in Europe leading to the "Rise of the West"


Examining how and why agricultural change and development occurred in Western Europe between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries is the central task of this unique comparative, historical study. It describes the factors that account for the transformation of a poor, unproductive agricultural region to a region with much higher productivity and burgeoning industrialization. Countries examined and compared are England, the Netherlands, France, the German lands, and Sweden.

What makes this volume so compelling is the extent to which the various fields of history, economics, political science, and sociology are integrated and employed. Hopcroft demonstrates that a key factor in agrarian development was the rural economic organization or "field system," which varied regionally. She also demonstrates the utility of the New Institutional Economic (NIE) approach to historical economic change, showing how field systems may be conceptualized as a product of local institutions, that is, social rules and norms of agricultural practice. Further, she uses the NIE to derive her hypothesis that the most rapid and extensive agrarian development occurred in the regions that were the least controlled by the community and manorial overlordship.

Hopcroft's multidisciplinary approach to her subject will interest readers from history, economics, political science, agriculture, and comparative historical sociology. It will, moreover, be important to anyone seeking to understand the "rise of the West."

Rosemary L. Hopcroft is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Praise / Awards

  • "Rosemary Hopcroft, in a remarkably wide-ranging examination of the interaction of state structures and agrarian structures in Europe, succeeds in shedding new light on both state formation and economic development. Her deft blending of the new institutional economics with macro-sociology offers the best study of the impact of agricultural relations on state dynamics since Barrington Moore."
    —Jack Goldstone, University of California at Davis
  • "By identifying and theorizing the different field systems present in preindustrial Europe, Hopcroft offers the best explanation currently available for understanding why agricultural modernization occurred at differential rates within the boundaries of particular European countries."
    —James Mahoney, Brown University, American Journal of Sociology
  • "Hopcroft's book on early modern agricultural development is most impressive in range and scope. . . . Scholars working on economic growth and agricultural development, comparative/historical sociology, and transitions to capitalism will find the book invaluable. . . .I am sure the book will become a classic in the literature on transitions to capitalism."
    —Rebecca Jean Emigh, Contemporary Sociology, Volume 30, No. 6

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 4 drawings, 6 tables, 16 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1999
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11023-0

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.