CORDIS - EU research results

New Frontiers in an Old World? Revealing the Role of North-West Europe's ‘Peripheral’ Outlands in the Growth of Capitalism, c.1400-1900

Project description

The role of outlands in urbanisation

Much of the research exploring the rise of capitalist urban centres in Europe takes little notice of distant places like western Ireland and inner Scandinavia. However, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental studies have revealed interactions between outlands and urban industrial centres. The EU-funded OutNorth project will develop an innovative periphery-centred method integrating archaeological surveys, environmental sampling, neglected historical evidence, GIS-based remote sensing and digital field survey to study the capitalist growth in north-western Europe (ca. 1400 and 1900) and urban and outland interactions. The project will focus on south-west Ireland, determining the role of outland herders in supplying north-west Europe’s industrial urban areas with food, and perform a comparative analysis in western Sweden.


OutNorth will develop a novel periphery-centred approach to the growth of north-west Europe's capitalist urban centres (AD1400-1900) by examining their dependence on outland producers of cattle and dairy. Most studies of capitalism's rise have focused on urban-industrial 'cores' and their agricultural hinterlands, neglecting distant places like western Ireland and inner Scandinavia. Yet recent archaeological and palaeo-environmental fieldwork suggests outlands were once valuable and could sustain complex livestock-rearing systems.

Focusing on south-west Ireland, OutNorth will build a multi-level approach which determines the active role of outland pastoralists in supplying NW Europe’s core areas with food - from their use of mountain pastures and (re)negotiation of community structures, to their trade and interaction with specific urban-industrial centres. It will accomplish this by integrating the results of recent archaeological surveys and environmental sampling with neglected historical evidence, GIS-based remote sensing and digital field survey. By basing its analysis in the landscape, OutNorth will challenge the assumption that peripheral farmers’ actions were dictated by 'the outside world'. It will show instead how socio-ecological factors shaped their engagement with markets, and in turn influenced growth in core areas. Comparative analysis in western Sweden will provide a means of testing this approach in a different socio-political and environmental context, ensuring replicability.

OutNorth’s long-term view of farming will make a timely contribution to the EU’s strategy on sustainable food production. Having arranged a collaboration with a major new European Innovation Partnership on upland farming, the researcher will organise a series of community events to highlight the valuable biocultural heritage of pastoralism. Together, they will discuss how historical lessons on overgrazing and social change might be integrated into future land-use management.


Net EU contribution
€ 191 852,16
751 05 Uppsala

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Östra Sverige Östra Mellansverige Uppsala län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 191 852,16