CONTEMPORARY discussion of the Tudor—Stuart inflation, like much recent analysis of the problem, was coloured by the behaviour of agricultural rather than industrial prices. Dearth, to men at that time, meant usually the high cost of provisions, and in analysing what they thought about dearth and its causes we run into a number of related problems, all of which stem from the highly unstable nature of agricultural product prices. It is often very difficult to discover whether they were referring to short-run oscillations, and especially to the violent upward fluctuations that were likely to result from a series of deficient harvests, or to the longer-run trend, to the general upward drift of prices from one generation to the next. The ambiguity is heightened by the fact that it was usually the short-run situation, a series of deficient harvests, that provoked comment about more general trends in price behaviour. Finally, although some observers were prepared to put forward different reasons to account for the trend as distinct from the fluctuations of prices, others were confused and were led into providing explanations of the trend which were really more suitable for explaining short-term fluctuations.
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R. B. Outhwaite
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