Seigniorial Tenure in New France, 1688-1739: An Essay on Income Distribution and Retarded Economic Development
Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 10, pp. 335-375, 1983
Posted: 22 Jan 2010
Date Written: 1983
During the time of the Seigniorial tenure in New France there was relatively retarded economic development. Only a few have studied the reason for this low growth, giving reasons such as a shortage of capital and labour, a failure to integrate agriculture into the international trade sector and the diversion of capital to luxury goods, but none have discussed how the seigniorial regime impacted on the economy. This paper shows that the regime modified the distribution of income, changed the structure of demand, and thus the pattern of investment, reducing the total output of the economy than might otherwise have been realised. Prior to the regime peasants enjoyed a favourable bargaining position because of the colony's sparse population. The seigniorial institutions reduced this bargaining power by imposing levies, which accounted for about ten percent of the peasant's annual income. Even though the peasants sill retained an increasing portion of the economic surplus, the levy retarded the development of the colony.
Keywords: Seigniorage, New France, Income Distribution, Economic Development, Bargaining, Trade, Agriculture
JEL Classification: Q15, N51, D33, E25
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation