The Peasants of Ottobeuren offers an interesting perspective on one of the enduring problems of early modern European history: the possibilities for economic growth and social change in rural society. Based on the voluminous records of the Swabian Benedictine monastery of Ottobeuren, this study underscores the limitations of the traditional narrative of a sixteenth-century boom which foundered on the productive rigidities of the peasant economy and then degenerated into social crisis in the seventeenth century. Population growth did strain resources at Ottobeuren, but the peasantry continued to produce substantial agricultural surplus. More importantly, peasants reacted to demographic pressure by deepening their involvement in land and credit markets, and more widely and aggressively marketing the fruits of their labour. Marriage and inheritance underwent a similar process of commercialization which made heavy demands on the peasantry, but which maintained a degree of social stability through the devastations of war, plague and famine.

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