A life with limited options. Landless people in eighteenth century Andalusia (Spain)
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This study on the extensive group of landless people in eighteenth-century Andalusia, particularly western Andalusia, is concerned with their specific characteristics and the complicated options for social advancement. Firstly, it defines the different groups of landless people and establishes differences within this highly heterogeneous collective. Two groups, salaried workers and small farmers with scarce resources, come to the fore in collections of rich empirical material. Secondly, landless people’s poverty and their submission to multifactorial uncertainty are outlined. Even the situation of small farmers with some land was precarious. As they owned a limited amount of farming tools and no farm animals, they faced the problem of finding more land to cultivate and suffered the repercussions of a bad or lost harvest due to adverse weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances. Thirdly, the text analyses the almost non-existent prospects that landless people had for improving their social position aand breaking the status quo. This lack of choice is explained by an aggregate of causes including unequal property distribution, the prevailing formulas for working the arable land and the limitations imposed by the technological limitations of organic-based agriculture. The reform policies undertaken by the enlightened governments of the time had little impact on all these constellations, although some of the organised land distributions were relatively successful. For landless rural workers with no other opportunities the last resort was migration. Big cities were the preferred destination: rich city dwellers and convents required large numbers of domestic servants and other workers. Altogether, the issue of landless people has continued into the nineteenth century and the Second Spanish Republic until today.
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