The work of various influential scholars, including Barrington Moore or Max Weber, stress the importance of considering agrarian structures when trying to explain socio-economic and political development. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the great majority of the population still lives in rural areas and a large share of citizens is employed in the agricultural sector. Development theorists largely agree that investing in agriculture is an effective way to reduce poverty, inequality and hunger.
Trying to understand how different agrarian systems (e.g. different land ownership patterns, tenure systems and modes of cultivation) shape countries’ development and individuals’ wellbeing is a key objective of my research. In my PhD thesis, I for example showed that the notorious neglect of public education in Brazil and other Latin American states can be traced back to an agrarian history characterized by plantation-style agriculture.
Currently, I am particularly interested in the relationship between agrarian systems, climate change adaptation and rural livelihoods. There is an ongoing fierce debate on how to structure agricultural production to guarantee food security under increasing weather variability. Should we strengthen small farmers, community-based agriculture and more localized food systems or promote capital-intensive agro-industrialization for more successful climate change mitigation?
Relying on historical county-level data over a period of more than 300 years, we are currently analyzing whether English farmers managed to adapt to adverse weather conditions and what contextual factors have moderated these mitigation processes.