Historisk tidskrift 126:2 • 2006
Innehåll (Contents) 2006:2
Svenska spannmålspriser under medeltiden i ett europeiskt perspektiv
Bo Franzén & Johan Söderberg
Swedish Medieval Grain Prices in a European Perspective
This article compares Swedish grain prices for the period 1291–1530
with European prices. All prices are expressed in grams of silver
per hectolitre of grain. The analysis focuses on two aspects
of the price series: the average price level and the volatility
of prices. A low price level, expressed in terms of silver, is
characteristic of a low-wage economy that is little monetized.
High prices are typical of the advanced economies of the period.
Price volatility can be seen as a welfare indicator, since great
swings from year to year imply difficulties in provisioning the
In a comparative perspective we should therefore
expect a negative association between price level and volatility.
This hypothesis is supported by the data: in Figure 5, based
on 24 European price series, the correlation between price level
and volatility is as strong as –.70. The advanced, high-price
economies thus enjoyed greater price stability. Price volatility
in Sweden was higher than in any other area studied here, which
suggests a comparatively low level of welfare for those parts
of the population who were not self-sufficient in grain.
correlation analysis, north-west Europe stands out as a comparatively
price-integrated area during medieval times. Several of the towns
and regions exhibiting the strongest level of price integration
are found in the Low Countries, but England and parts of Germany
were also included in this area (Figure 6). In contrast, Sweden
was only weakly price-integrated with north-west Europe and the
North German town of Rostock.
Finally, the article discusses
the possible impact of short-run climatological variations on
prices. Estimates of medieval temperature and precipitation in
England correlate rather weakly with wheat yields and wheat prices,
whereas correlations with grain prices are much stronger. This
suggests that the observed price integration in north-west Europe
may be seen mainly as the result of economic integration and
not as an effect of shared variations in climate. This is a preliminary
conclusion, however, since estimates of medieval temperature
and precipitation are as yet uncertain.
grain prices, economic integration, welfare, middle ages