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The dynamics and consequences of institutions for collective action in pre-industrial Europe

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The link between collective action institutions and economic development in pre-industrial Europe

Institutions for collective action existed from the Middle Ages in Europe, and today continue to contribute to the socioeconomic sustainability of European communities. An EU initiative explored their influence on Europe's economic development.

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More and more scholars and policymakers are recognising the important role played by institutional forms of collective action such as guilds and commons in Europe's economic growth before the onset of the Industrial Revolution. With this in mind, the EU-funded project UNITEDWESTAND (The dynamics and consequences of institutions for collective action in pre-industrial Europe) studied the complex interface between economic growth, the rise and resilience of collective action institutions, and shifting family and marriage patterns in pre-industrial Europe. Work began by mapping the economic development of individual European countries during the period 1000-1800, the development of various collective action institutions in European countries and the evolution of marriage patterns in such countries. Project partners analysed the way in which collective action institutions were established during the 17th and 18th centuries and how this was later adapted to changing circumstances. The UNITEDWESTAND team also analysed the actual function and daily practices of such institutions by conducting a series of case studies. The focus was on urban institutions, especially guilds and beguinages, and rural institutions, particularly commons and rural guilds. To better understand the impact of household constitution and marriage patterns on institutional arrangements, researchers examined the regulations for several types of collective action institutions in western and southern Europe. UNITEDWESTAND shed considerable light on the rise and fall of collective action institutions and how they shaped Europe's socioeconomic, political, demographic, religious and cultural landscape.

Keywords

Collective action institutions, economic development, pre-industrial Europe, UNITEDWESTAND, marriage patterns

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