Wilhelm Abel

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Wilhelm Abel (born August 25, 1904 in Bütow , † April 27, 1985 in Göttingen ) was a German economic historian .


Abel was a student of the Kiel agricultural economist August Skalweit (1879–1960), from whom he was awarded a Dr. rer pol. received his doctorate. He completed his habilitation in economics at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in 1935 and was appointed to a professorship in Königsberg in 1942 . In 1937 Abel represented spatial research in lectures and exercises. In 1947 he took over a chair for agricultural policy at the Georg-August University in Göttingen . In 1964 he became the first director of the newly founded Göttingen Institute for Economic and Social History. In 1966 he was elected a full member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . He mainly dealt with questions of agricultural history and policy, rural social policy and handicraft policy.

Abel's students include Walter Achilles , Friedrich-Wilhelm Henning , Karl Heinrich Kaufhold and Diedrich Saalfeld .

Abel had been with Alice, geb. Perner, married.


Methodology, basics and classification

Wilhelm Abel is considered to be one of the founders of the quantitative method in economic history research. In addition to his extensive and fundamental work on agricultural history, historical studies owe Abel decisive impulses for the interpretation of economic-historical topics, in particular for the agricultural and hunger crises as well as a reinterpretation of pauperism and its causes.

Impulses in scientific debates

Causes of Pauperism

Wilhelm Abel formulated a counter-thesis to Friedrich Engels ' view that industrialization was (was) the cause of pauperism. In Abel's view, pauperism was just an offshoot of the old, pre-industrial poverty, exacerbated by rapid population growth while productivity growth was still low. In contrast to Engels, he saw industrialization as the solution to the pauperism problem.

Causes of the hunger crises in the 19th century

According to Abel and Ernest Labrousse (hence also: Abel-Labrousse hypothesis ), characteristics of the pre-capitalist economic crises are natural historical causes, singular events as triggering moments, the material destruction of the elements of the reproductive process, the transmission of the crisis from agriculture to urban industry and the spatial limitation of the crises due to a lack of integration of the markets. Abel saw these characteristics as fulfilled in the Europe-wide hunger crisis in the middle of the 19th century and therefore called them the last crisis of the ancien régime type and argued that "the year 1847 was still an emergency year of the 'old order' in Germany". More recent research see this in a more nuanced way and argue that there were already elements of the industrial-capitalist type of economic crisis at that time.

Fonts (selection)

  • The bearers of the German grain trade , Frankfurt am Main 1929.
  • Agricultural crises and economic boom in Central Europe from the 13th to the 19th century , habilitation thesis, Berlin – Hamburg 1935 (2nd edition 1966, 3rd edition 1978, Japan. 1972, French 1973, Italian 1976, English 1980), ISBN 3 -490-30415-2 .
  • The desertions of the late Middle Ages (= sources and research on agricultural history , 1), Jena 1943 (2nd edition 1955, 3rd edition 1976), ISBN 3-437-50185-2 .
  • Agricultural policy , Göttingen 1951 (2nd edition 1958, 3rd edition 1967, span. 1960).
  • History of German agriculture from the early Middle Ages to the 19th century , Stuttgart 1962 (= Deutsche Agrargeschichte , 2) (2nd edition 1967, 3rd edition 1978), ISBN 978-3-8001-3041-2 .
  • Pauperism in Germany on the eve of the industrial revolution , Dortmund 1966 (2nd edition, Hanover 1970).
  • Mass poverty and hunger crises in pre-industrial Europe. An attempt at a synopsis , Hamburg – Berlin 1974 (2nd edition 1977, 3rd edition 1986), ISBN 3-490-04315-4 .
  • Stages of nutrition. A historical sketch , Göttingen 1981, ISBN 978-3-525-33453-9 .
  • Structures and crises of the late medieval economy , Stuttgart – New York 1980 (= sources and research on agricultural history , 32), ISBN 978-3-437-50245-3 .


  • Julien Demade: The Medieval Countryside in German-Language Historiography since the 1930s . In: Isabel Alfonso (Ed.): The Rural History of Medieval European Societies. Trends and Perspectives , Brepols, Turnhout 2007, ISBN 978-2-503-52069-8 , pp. 173-252.
  • Karl Heinrich Kaufhold u. a. (Ed.): Theory and empiricism in economic policy and economic history. Wilhelm Abel on his 80th birthday . Göttingen 1984, ISBN 978-3-509-01366-5 .
  • Karl Heinrich Kaufhold: Wilhelm Abel's contribution to economic historical research in the 20th century . In: Markus A. Denzel (Ed.): Economy - Politics - History. Contributions to the commemorative colloquium on the occasion of Wilhelm Abel's 100th birthday on October 16, 2004 in Leipzig , Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08633-1 , pp. 103–127.
  • Alexander Pinwinkler : Historical population research. Germany and Austria in the 20th century, Wallstein Verlag: Göttingen 2014, here esp. 242–256.
  • Obituary Wilhelm Abel . In: Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 73 (1986), pp. 297-300.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 23.
  2. ^ Hans-Heinrich Bass : Hunger crises in Prussia during the first half of the 19th century . Scripta Mercaturae, St. Katharinen 1991, ISBN 3-92266190-4 , p. 22 f.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Abel: Mass poverty and hunger crises in pre-industrial Germany . 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1972, p. 57.
  4. Hans H. Bass: Natural and socio-economic causes of the subsistence crisis in the middle of the 19th century - a discussion using the example of Prussia , in: Bernd Herrmann (Ed.): Reports from the Environmental History Colloquium of the University of Göttingen , Universitätsverlag, Göttingen 2010, p. 141 –156 (PDF; 591 kB).