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The Oxford History of Poland-LithuaniaVolume I: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1569$
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Robert Frost

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208693

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208693.001.0001

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(p.242) 22 Peasants
The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania

Robert Frost

Oxford University Press

Chapter 22 looks at the development of the Polish rural economy from the late fourteenth century, which established the basis of the economic boom in the sixteenth century. It considers the development of demesne farming and the manorial system, and the spread of labour rent, using recent scholarship to challenge explanations of the introduction of ‘serfdom’ that exaggerate the importance of szlachta control of legislation. It emphasizes the complexity of the rural economy, and presents the non-noble rural population, in particular the kmiecie, the tenant farmers at the apex of the system, as economic actors responding to market forces who, in the economic slump of the fifteenth century, saw the conversion of rents in cash and kind into labour rents as a rational choice.

Keywords:   rural economy, szlachta, peasants, manor, demesne farming, labour rent, serfdom

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