We use the effect of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries after 1535 to test the commercialization hypothesis about the roots of long-run English economic development. Before the Dissolution, monastic lands were relatively unencumbered by inefficient feudal land tenure but could not be sold. The Dissolution created a market for formerly monastic lands, which could now be more effectively commercialized relative to nonmonastic lands, where feudal tenure persisted until the twentieth century. We show that parishes affected by the Dissolution subsequently experienced a rise of the gentry and had more innovation and higher yield in agriculture, a greater share of the population working outside of agriculture, and ultimately higher levels of industrialization. Our results are consistent with explanations of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions which emphasize the commercialization of society as a key precondition for taking advantage of technological change and new economic opportunities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Economics and Econometrics