Property Rights and Contract Form in Medieval Europe

52 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2007 Last revised: 25 Jun 2014

Date Written: September 1, 2009


Throughout western Europe, beginning about 1200, leasing of lords' estates became more common relative to direct management. In England, however, direct management increased beginning around the same time and until the fourteenth century, and leasing increased thereafter. This article models contract choice as a trade-off between incentives and insurance. Leasing increases as living standards improve. In England, the increase in direct management can be explained by improved security of freehold tenure, and the increase in leasing can be explained not only by improving living standards but also by improved security of leasehold tenure.

Keywords: medieval, common law, property, contract theory, moral hazard, principal-agent, contract choice, freehold, leasehold

JEL Classification: D23, J43, K11, K12, N33, N40, N43, N50, N53, O13, Q12, Q15

Suggested Citation

Volokh, Alexander (Sasha), Property Rights and Contract Form in Medieval Europe (September 1, 2009). 11 Am. L. & Econ. Rev. 399 (2009); Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 969797. Available at SSRN: or

Alexander (Sasha) Volokh (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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Atlanta, GA 30322
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