Government Finance and Imposition of Serfdom After the Black Death
44 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2019
Date Written: October 12, 2018
After the Black Death, serfdom disappeared in Western Europe while making a resurgence in Eastern Europe. What explains this difference? I argue that serfdom was against the interests of the sovereign and was only imposed when the nobility, most of whom needed serfdom to maintain their economic and social standing, had leverage to impose their will. One way the nobility gained this power was through financing the military. Using data from the fourteenth to through the eighteenth centuries, I show that serfdom was imposed in areas where sovereigns had few other resources to pay for war or defense. This paper addresses the causes of a historical institution that theorist from Moore (1966) to Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) have argued played an important role in the development, or lack thereof, of democracy and long-term economic growth.
Keywords: serfdom, labor, internal migration, warfare
JEL Classification: N33, N44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation