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Gary Richardson

Behavioral Economics

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The Prudent Village: Risk Pooling Institutions In Medieval English Agriculture, Gary Richardson May 2005

The Prudent Village: Risk Pooling Institutions In Medieval English Agriculture, Gary Richardson

Gary Richardson

The prudent peasant mitigated the risk of crop failures by scattering his arable land throughout his village, Deirdre McCloskey argued, because alternative risksharing institutions did not exist. But, alternatives did exist, this essay concludes. Medieval English peasants formed two types of farmers’ cooperatives. Fraternities protected members from the perils of everyday life. Customary poor laws redistributed resources towards villagers beset by bad luck. In both institutions, the expectation of reciprocation motivated farmers with surpluses to aid neighbors with shortages.