Edmund Cannon: What Can Probate Inventories Tell Us About Grain Storage in the Early Modern Period?

Speaker:  Edmund Cannon - University of Bristol
  Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 12:00 PM

Societies at risk of famine due to bad harvests can mitigate risks either by trading with other economies or by storing staple foods from one harvest year to the next (inter-year storage or carryover). While there are many quantitative studies of trade and markets, storage has attracted less attention. Probate inventories constitute a hitherto unused source of data to address this question, since the value of assets, including grain in store, had to be valued shortly after the death of any individual with assets worth more than £5: this would include any agent capable of storing non-trivial quantities. The econometric difficulties in using probates arise from having occasional ambiguous data and from sampling each individual only once. We discuss how to address these issues and show that most storage was undertaken by farmers and that carryover was usually low. Given the absence of famine in England at this time, an estimate of low carryover provides independent evidence that markets were usually able to attenuate the effects of poor harvests.

Programme Director
Andrea Mazzon

External reference
Publication date
November 3, 2023