Europe s economic development in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, continues to fascinate scholars. In recent debates, institutionalised forms of collective action have been put forward as a key feature of Europe s precocious development. This project examines that connection between institutions and economic development in detail. It also harks back to the origins of such institutions, teasing out the impact of changing family patterns that emerged in Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages, which are often described as the European Marriage Pattern . Together with such factors as the absence of a strong state, and a helpful legal framework, the weakening of family relations may have created opportunities for other, non-kin social organisations to emerge, explaining the strength of institutions for collective action in this part of the world. Interactions between economic growth, marriage patterns and collective action institutions will be examined on several levels. A European wide-analysis, using specific indicators for institutional development and demographic patterns, should help clarify our understanding of their temporal and geographical co-evolution. Regulations for several types of collective action institutions will be analysed for Western Europe and Southern Europe to study the impact of household constitution and marriage patterns on institutional arrangements. A third level of the project, to be subdivided in an urban and a rural study, will look into the application of such regulations in everyday practices, through the analysis of several case-studies of guilds, commons and beguinages in the Low Countries. Finally, a sub-project is will promote dissemination and exchange of the project s data among the wider academic community. Several events will be organised to stimulate debates about the topics raised by the project.
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