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13 - The Rural Economy

from Part II - 1000 to 1800

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2022

Debin Ma
Affiliation:
Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo
Richard von Glahn
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

The rural economy will predominate in almost any preindustrial society – perhaps particularly so in China. No barriers comparable to medieval Europe’s guild rules made large sectors into urban monopolies; and though China was probably the world’s most urbanized large society c. 1200, and perhaps still as urban as Europe in the late 1600s, much of its elite lived in the countryside rather than in cities or fortified castles (especially between roughly 1100 and 1550). Moreover, the property systems prevailing in China’s most commercialized areas created incentives for most nonelite families to remain in the countryside, transferring labor not needed for farming to handicrafts without moving to town. The result was a highly diversified rural economy and cities that, though often quite large, were much smaller than the rural surplus could have supported.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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References

Further Reading

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