This chapter sets the historical stage, puts the study in context, and reviews the relevant literature, beginning with the pioneering efforts of Johannes Conrad to quantify land ownership by size and by social position of the owner. It then reviews critically similar efforts by Conrad's students and later scholars, with detailed critiques of the work of Hess, Buchsteiner, Nabert, and Schiller. The chapter concludes with a long section showing why the data of the German agricultural censuses are not only unsuitable, but downright misleading for the study of land ownership: production units do not correspond to ownership units, and the size of agricultural enterprises cannot even serve as a proxy for size of ownership units, neither at a single date nor for changes over time. Moreover, the censuses contain inconsistencies with each other, requiring major adjustment to the figures from the 1882 census.
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