|A 411, Dauphine|
From Bankers to Managers: Formal Institutions and Jewish Occupational Structure in Pre-Modern Poland
Around 1500, there were about 10,000 Jews in Poland and Lithuania. In 1764, their number grew to 750,000. This incomparable demographic growth and parallel exceptional economic performance of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth have puzzled historians for decades. Various religious, economic, discriminatory, and even biological mechanisms were suggested as engines fueling those developments. This lecture suggests a different approach. While thoroughly analyzing the development of institutional framework, it shows that it was the peculiar property rights system and political institutions prevailing in Poland-Lithuania and exogenous to the Jews, that created the ideal setting for the Jews to bring their human capital and skills and shift from moneylending to property management, thus becoming an inextricable part of the local economy in the neo-feudal period.