Contract Enforcement in Russian Serf Society, 1750–1860

18 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2013

See all articles by T. K. Dennison

T. K. Dennison

California Institute of Technology

Date Written: August 2013


This article examines questions about contract enforcement in the absence of formal legal institutions, using archival evidence for one particular rural society in pre‐emancipation Russia. The evidence presented indicates that enforcement services provided by the local landlord made it possible for Russians from different socioeconomic and legal strata to engage in a wide variety of contractual transactions. However, this system had significant drawbacks in that the poorest serfs could not afford these services and no serf had recourse beyond his local estate.

Suggested Citation

Dennison, Tracy K., Contract Enforcement in Russian Serf Society, 1750–1860 (August 2013). The Economic History Review, Vol. 66, Issue 3, pp. 715-732, 2013, Available at SSRN: or

Tracy K. Dennison (Contact Author)

California Institute of Technology ( email )

Pasadena, CA 91125
United States

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