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¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In Stühlingen, this instrument was simply called “claim” (Forderung). Once its nominal value exceeded a certain threshold, it had to be registered with the authorities; this registration and the associated increased trustworthiness of the claims added further to their wide acceptance. Claims were always valued in florins. Our data set mentions 1880 such claims over the 139 years from 1604 to 1743. Credit, prior to the arrival of Jews, was not unknown in rural Germany. Merchants might allow customers some payment delays. Similarly, some landlords showed flexibility in the collection of their rents.19 The church too occasionally provided mortgage funds . Property could be converted to income streams through annuities (Renten).20 But “claims” had the double advantage of being easily available and flexible, almost like today’s credit cards.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Serfdom had been abolished in western Germany by 1600. The policies of West German princes had encouraged an entrenched landholding peasantry, so that in the period under discussion the peasantry had taken hold of up to 90% of arable land.21 The people who make up an agrarian workforce are commonly designated as peasants or farmers. But this designation is very imprecise, since it includes a varied group of people with a wide spectrum of wealth, skills, and status. Statistical ensembles can change easily over time and place, a fact that clouds the validity of any generalization.22 Peasants could be subdivided into two major groups: those who owned the land they tilled and those who did not. Among the former were the wealthy owner/operators of large contiguous family farms and the smallholders, the latter often with fragmented holdings. The landless included farm workers who worked for wages and tenants who leased the land against a share of their harvest.
19Toch, “Local Credit.”
20Gilomen, “Das Motiv der bäuerlichen Verschuldung.”
21Brenner, “Agrarian Class Structure,”
22Robisheaux, “Rural Society.”