Haushaltsökonomien von Landarmen und Landlosen. Ansätze zeitgenössischer Wirtschafts- und Sozialenquêten, 1860-1914

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This article is concerned with the household economics of resident landless and near-landless social classes. In Imperial Germany around 1900, these groups comprised of approximately six million people. Such households had little to no property in the form of land, but nevertheless cultivated multiple estates. They were accordingly involved with their own household’s agricultural production on the grounds of housing either owned or rented. This article investigates what information was provided by contemporaneous social finding commissions about the living situations of these households, and what fact-finding interests underlay such empirical surveys. The potential for knowledge of these studies, as well as where their limits lay, will be analysed. In addition, the ways in which distribution of powers and institutionalisation affected the approaches and methods of empirical social research will be presented in detail. Finally, the role of (academically educated) women in these early days of rural social research will be assessed. The following can be established: landless and near-landless persons were active in seeking to improve their economic situation. When this was not achieved, urban and industrial migration initiatives came into being, often promising success. The combination of wage labour and one’s own household economy proved a durable system, in which the producers’ interests in essential supplies and personal freedom were, however, in the long run neglected. Working women emerged with their own demands, and these, too, were presented in detail in the research projects produced by female academics. It was not until the very end of Imperial Germany that social demands of male and female rural farm workers reached a level where they could become politicised. Alongside the (growing) market orientation of agriculture, and in terms of the purchase of consumer goods, the (early-modern) category of the household demonstrated its longevity. With the increased communicative opening of rural society, this goal-directed way of living began to diminish. In summary: current agricultural investigations that exclusively access the (quantitatively measurable) market economy, and which do not sufficiently consider the knowledge base of contemporaneous data, accordingly prove to be much reduced in scope.

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