I have a project funded by the NWO VIDI (800,000 euro), which goes by the title "Positively Shocking! The Redistributive Impact of Mass Mortality through Epidemic Diseases and Violent Conflict in Early Modern Northwest Europe".
Recent literature has suggested that throughout history hazards such as violent conflict and epidemic disease outbreaks were two of the major avenues through which societies became more equitable – a so-called “levelling effect”. Empirical evidence for this phenomenon, however, remains patchy at best – especially as we move into the deeper past. In my project, we do three things.
First, we provide more systematic empirical evidence for the redistributive impact of epidemics and conflicts – with tighter spatial and temporal refinement of our approach allowing us to differentiate between temporary and structural changes.
Second, we explain the direction of distribution – egalitarian or inequitable – by zooming in on the institutional framework in which redistribution takes place. What is the effect of commodity markets, factor markets, property rights, collective associations, inheritance practices, and so on?
Third, we reflect on the “meaning” of any redistribution seen. To what extent does a change in a Gini coefficient, for example, mean anything for the societal actors involved in terms of their economic and social position and composition of wealth? In the process, we reflect on the terms on which wealth and property was owned or accessed, the different ways in which wealth portfolios could be composed, and the prevalence of intersectional or obscured inequalities.
I am happy to hear from any prospective students (BA/MA/PhD) interested in the broad domain of environmental hazards, famines and diseases in the past, and their implications for social and economic development over the long term.