Professor Craig Muldrew

Professor of Early Modern Economic and Social History
Professor Craig Muldrew

Craig Muldrew’s research focuses on two areas. The first is the investigation of  the economic and social role of trust in the development of the market economy in England between 1500-1700.  This concentrates on the centrality of reputation to financial credit, and the insecurity of wealth in a world of innumerable debts. In this work he has examined the relationship between the actual working of economic contracts and obligations in relation to the development of natural law theory and commercial society. The second is the living standards and work of agricultural labourers in the early modern English economy,  published as a monograph entitled,  Food, Energy and the Industrious Revolution: Work and Material Culture in Agrarian England, 1550–1780,  (CUP, 2011).  This book engages with two important topics on which there is a growing literature.  The first is the concept of the industrious revolution put forward by Jan de Vries arguing that increasing consumption patterns in the seventeenth century led to longer hours of work.  The other is the history of food.  Food is important not only because it formed such a large percentage of labouring household’s expenditure, but also because it was a source of energy.   Before the widespread harnessing of machine energy based on carbon fuel, almost all labour had to be done by men and animals.  Bread and beer were the petrol of this world.

Craig Muldrew has also written articles in the field of legal history concerning debt litigation and its relationship to the nature of community, and articles on the cultural nature of money, and wages in the early modern period. He is also interested in the importance of industrial growth in the early modern English economy, and is engaged on a long term project examining the development of the concept of self-control and its effect on the structure of community and on the creation of savings, as well as how local paper credit came to be trusted in eighteenth century England.

Supervises in most areas of British social and economic History from 1500 to 1800.

Lectures in British economic and social history in Part I of the history tripos, and in the MPhil in economic and social history where he teaches the history of economic thought and economic culture and sociology


Tags & Themes


Queens' College
Cambridge CB3 9ET


Key Publications

  • The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England. (Macmillan, 1998).
  • Food, Energy and the Industrious Revolution: Work and Material Culture in Agrarian England, 1550–1780,  (CUP, 2011).
  •   Editor with. Angiolina Arrau and M.R. De Rosa, Debiti e crediti, special issue of the journal Quaderni Storichi 137 (2011).
  • 'Credit and the Courts: Debt Litigation in a Seventeenth Century Urban Community,' The Economic History Review. (February 1993).
  • 'Interpreting the Market: The Ethics of Credit, and Community Relations in Early Modern England,' Social History. (May 1993).
  • 'The Culture of Reconciliation: Community and the Settlement of Economic Disputes in Early Modern England,' Historical Journal 39, 4 (1996).
  • 'Rural Credit and Legal Institutions in the Countryside in England 1550-1700', in C.W. Brooks and Michael Lobban, (eds.), Communities and Courts: Proceedings of the Twelfth British Legal History Conference, (Hambledon, 1997).
  • 'From a 'Light Cloak' to the 'Iron Cage': An Essay On Historical Changes in the Relationship Between Community and Individualism', in Alexandra Shepard and Philip Withington (eds.), Communities in Early Modern England, (Manchester, 2000).
  • 'Hard food for Midas', Cash and its Social Value in Early Modern England', Past and Present, 170 (2001)
  • 'A Mutual Assent of her Mind'? Women, Debt, Litigation and Contract in early modern England,  History Workshop Journal, 55 (2003).
  • ‘Class and Credit: Social Identity, Wealth and the Life Course in Early Modern England’, in Henry French and Jonathan Barry (eds.), Identity and Agency in England, 1500-1800, (London, 2004).
  • ‘Wages and the Problem of Monetary Scarcity in Early Modern England,’ in Jan Lucassen (ed.), Wages and Currency: Global Comparisons form Antiquity to the Twentieth Century, (Bern, 2007).
  • ‘Atlantic World 1760-1820: Economic Impact,’  in Nicholas Canny and Philip Morgan (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  •  ‘Th’ancient Distaff’ and ‘Whirling Spindle’: measuring the contribution of spinning to household earnings and the national economy in England, 1550–1770’, Economic History Review,  65 (2012), pp.498-526. 
  • ‘From Commonwealth to Public Opulence: the Redefinition of Wealth and Government in Early Modern Britain,’ in John Walter, Steve Hindle and Alexandra Shepard (eds.), Remaking English Society:  Social History and Social Change in Early Modern Society. (Forthcoming Boydell and Brewer, 2013).