A PIECE OF LAND FOR EVERYONE?
Ronsijn, Wouter. “‘Gaining ground’ in Flanders after the 1840s: access to land and coping mechanisms of (semi-)landless households in Flanders, ca. 1850-1900”, Rural History Conference, 1–35. Leuven, 2017
“This paper explores whether, as a result of this shifting power balance, rural households in Flanders in the second half of the nineteenth century were literally gaining ground. All scholars see this period as a profound turning point for the Flemish countryside, affecting both rural coping mechanisms and agricultural production methods. […] Up until then, livelihoods in Flanders often combined small-scale farming for one’s own account with wage labour or market-oriented production, although there were regional variations to that pattern. This paper focuses on what happened with access to land, the indispensable condition for the first component. Did access to land increase, as would be consistent with the change of fortunes mentioned above, or did it decrease, as would be consistent with the overall, long-term European trend of rising landlessness? […] The paper reconstructs the extent of landlessness (households without land) and semi-landlessness (households with less than 2 ha of land, the minimum required for subsistence; this includes households without land) in Flanders, and to indicate the factors affecting that extent in the second half of the nineteenth century. It asks how many landless and semi-landless households there were in Flanders, and how access to land fit in with their other activities? The paper focuses on developments in four regions showing divergent patterns: the districts of Veurne, Kortrijk, Sint-Niklaas and Oudenaarde.”