The 1738-41 harvest crisis in Scotland

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Abstract

Between 1738 and 1741 Scotland experienced one of the harshest harvest crises and depressions in the eighteenth-century. After at least two consecutive harvest failures (in 1739 and 1740 and perhaps also in 1738) agrarian and industrial output contracted, the price level doubled, and average incomes fell below subsistence. Due to an increase in mortality, there was also a considerable contraction in aggregate demand. Data drawn from both the micro- as well as the macro-level shows the disastrous economic impact such deficient harvests - the depression's initial trigger - would have upon Scotland, a pre-industrial economy dominated by agriculture. Such shocks in agrarian supply tended to work out as general adverse shocks in aggregate supply, as the economy's business cycle was to a large extent determined by movements in the harvest cycle. The implicit task of the paper also is to point out the variety of available sources for, as well as one possible strategy of, writing a quantitative macro-economic history of eighteenth-century Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-63
Number of pages36
JournalScottish Historical Review
Volume90
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

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