Rural History Conference (EURHO), Girona, 7-10 September 2015, session on:
Storage of Staple Food and Commercial Networks from the late Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century
Herment Laurent, CNRS-CRH, EHESS, UMR 8858. ERHIMOR, GDRI-CRICEC.
Ronsijn Wouter, Ghent University, History Department.
Storage of agricultural commodities has received surprisingly little attention from rural historians. Yet the issue of storage is closely linked to a number of other topics which have received ample attention in recent years, such as production and productivity (Olson and Svensson 2011), market integration (Federico 2012) and rural commercialization (Pinilla 2009). Several important developments in the Western European economy have been interpreted as the effect of increasing levels of storage, permitting carry-overs from one harvest year to the next, mitigating the effects of harvest crises and reducing year-to year price fluctuations. Yet beyond these indirect indications suggesting the growing importance of storage, little else is known on the issue.
Those studies that have given a central place to the issue of storage (Sigaut 1978, 1985) indicate that it was not only a technological but first and foremost a social and economic issue. Beyond the technical patterns of storage and their evolutions which are not very well known, numerous questions arise related to the social and economic aspects of this issue. Who controlled the storage: the producers (farmers), consumers (households), commercial intermediaries (tradesmen or processors such as bakers, millers, brewers), or the elite (nobility, church, hospitals, or local or central state institutions)? For what purpose were staple foods stored: needs of people, commercial/speculative purpose, in expectation of crisis, etc.?
It is likely that the role and functioning of storage changed considerably between the late Middle Ages and the twentieth century. When, during periods of population growth and urbanization, output grew, this also affected the trade and storage of food. Conversely, during periods of economic depression, the cost of storage becomes a burden, stimulating either technical innovations or a struggle to transfer this burden onto other actors. Finally, the globalization of the grain trade required specific storage solutions in both exporting and importing regions.
The aim of this session is so to examine with new data the interaction between the technical and the social and economic issues of storage, commercialization and processing of agricultural commodities. More generally, we want to assess how the constraint of storage was solved in different technical, economic and social contexts, and how the commercial networks of staple foods, were adapted to new patterns of demand.
Abstracts of max. 300 words are welcome until the 15 September at the following addresses:
Send comments and questions to H-Net
Webstaff. H-Net reproduces announcements that have been submitted to us as a
free service to the academic community. If you are interested in an announcement
listed here, please contact the organizers or patrons directly. Though we strive
to provide accurate information, H-Net cannot accept responsibility for the text of
announcements appearing in this service. (Administration)