The historiography of agrarian Germany before 1914 is fundamentally based upon two moments (in the Weberian sense): one of a structural and the other of an institutional nature. The structural moment comprises an emphasis upon the existence and role of agrarian dualism, that is, upon a sharp contrast, emerging from the later Middle Ages onwards, in the agrarian systems found east and west of the River Elbe and its tributary the Saale, which together formed a line bisecting Germany from Hamburg to the modern Czechoslavakian frontier. The institutional moment consists of the shift from a free-trade to a protectionist policy in respect of cereals after 1879. In the words of a leading West German agrarian historian, “On 1 January 1880 … a new epoch commenced for German agricultural policy.” In addition, the adoption of a grain tariff from 1879 is generally assumed to have had a determining influence upon the subsequent development of German agriculture and, for that matter, is thought by some writers to have exerted a considerable influence upon the entire course of modern German history.
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