What Is a Money Wage? Measuring the Earnings of Agricultural Labourers in Early Modern England

  • Craig MuldrewEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


This chapter investigates the form of the wage for agricultural labour in early modern England and throws much new light on labourers’ earnings. It fatally undermines the accepted practice that treats the remuneration of casual farm labourers as sums paid promptly in cash, and their real wage as calculable by reference to the cost of a universal fixed basket of food and other consumables which can be precisely presented as an index in long-run series. The reality was that a series of factors including the acute shortage of small-denomination coins and the availability on farms of food and drink and other facilities valuable for labourers, such as grazing, gleaning and firewood, rendered the stated money wage as the basis for more negotiable means of payment. Also notable is the concession of meals and cheap food by farmers to their labourers during periods of high prices.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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