CALL FOR PAPERS – Rural History Conference

CALL FOR PAPERS – Rural History Conference (Bern, Switzerland)
19-22 August 2013

Deadline February 15th

Send proposals for papers to session organiser Dr. Daniel R. Curtis at

There is room for 3 more papers, and 1 person to chair the session.

Session 31
Why were some pre-industrial societies resilient over the long-term while other pre-industrial societies were vulnerable to exogenous crises? 

Abstract: This session addresses one main question. Why in the pre-industrial period were some societies resilient over the long-term while other societies were much more vulnerable to crises? All pre-industrial societies had to face economic, environmental and agricultural challenges at some point, which could come in the form of famine, war, expropriation, flooding, failed harvests, pestilence, harsh taxation, or the disappearance of valuable resources. How then can we explain why some societies were able to overcome or negate these problems, while other societies proved susceptible to failure? This session aims to move away from the conditions impacting upon the fortunes of societies and begins to focus on how the arrangement of pre-industrial societies themselves could have increased or decreased resilience. In much modern development economics literature, there is still a prevailing philosophy which suggests that resilience against crisis can be solved through relentless pursuits of economic growth, or an over-resilience on technological innovation, the provision of medicines, or by throwing large amounts of capital at impoverished regions. In this session instead, it will be argued that the intrinsic arrangement and configuration of society (based around certain blends of property structures, power balances, arrangements of commodity markets, and factor markets) was more important for establishing resilience (in the pre-industrial period, at least). The hypothesis which will be tested is that a big part of societies’ capacity to withstand and be resilient in the face of environmental and economic crises is connected with equality: not just equality in the distribution of wealth and property but an egalitarian distribution of power and involvement in essential decision-making processes, which determine the ways in which society is able to exploit, manage and care for its resources. In that sense, this session is linked very closely to a growing literature which sees, for example disasters, not as mere natural events but as social processes which test the organizational capabilities of societies in limiting the destabilizing effects and moving onto a stage of recovery.

Dr. Daniel R. Curtis,

Research Institute for History and Culture,

Utrecht University,