John Walter
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The social economy of dearth in early modern England
in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
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This chapter focuses on the series of discrepancies between the dominant and widely accepted model of socioeconomic change in early modern England. This change suggests a sharp growth in the proportion of the early modern population that were 'harvest-sensitive', and the more muted record of death and disorder that has emerged from recent studies. The textile communities of Westmorland and the West Riding of Yorkshire were rendered doubly vulnerable as rural industrialisation encouraged population growth in grain-deficient, upland pastoral and harvest-sensitive economies. But where rural industry supplemented household economies that retained an agrarian base, it contributed to a dual economy that offered greater protection against dearth. Protection demanded membership of a community, whose rules and boundaries were defined increasingly by those chief inhabitants for whom growing wealth made redundant the reasons for observing customary patterns of mutual aid against dearth.

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