The Bernstein & Byres Prize in Agrarian Change for 2018




We are pleased to announce that Enric Tello, Gabriel Jover, Ivan Murray, Onofre Fullana and Ricard Soto have been awarded the 2018 Bernstein & Byres Prize for their article ‘From feudal colonization to agrarian capitalism in Mallorca: Peasant endurance under the rise and fall of large estates (1229–1900)’, JAC 18(3): 483-516. The authors are respectively from the University of Barcelona, the University of Girona, the University of the Balearic Islands, the University of the Balearic Islands and the Organic Farming Association of Mallorca (APAEMA), and the University of Barcelona.

The Bernstein & Byres Prize has been awarded since 2008 by the Journal of Agrarian Change (JAC) to the best article published in that year. An award of £500 is given to the winner (donated by our publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd). Articles are judged on: (a) their quality as works of political economy; (b) their analytical power; (c) their originality; and (d) the quality of evidence presented and its deployment. Through this, we hope to reinforce the remit of the Journal in the field of agrarian political economy and to encourage scholarly work investigating the social relations and dynamics of production, property and power in agrarian formations and their processes of change, both historical and contemporary.

For the prize for 2018, a jury of five were asked to assess four articles shortlisted by the Journal’s editors. They chose the winner. The other articles that made it to the shortlist were (in alphabetical order):

  • Thomas Paul Henderson, ‘The Class Dynamics of Food Sovereignty in Mexico and Ecuador’, JAC 18(1): 3-21.
  • Huaiyin Li, ‘Institutions and Work Incentives in Collective Farming in Maoist China’, JAC 18(1): 67-86.
  • Javier Moreno Zacarés, ‘Beyond Market Dependence: The Origins of Capitalism in Catalonia’, JAC 18(4): 703-721.

The jury consisted of three members of the International Advisory Board (who vary annually) and the Journal’s founders and editors emeriti – Henry Bernstein and Terence J. Byres. The jury members produced detailed reports for which the editorial team would like to thank them. We draw upon these reports in the following remarks of the article by Enric Tello, Gabriel Jover, Ivan Murray, Onofre Fullana and Ricard Soto.

This article is a tour de force in the length of its historical durée, and in the way it combines the work of its five authors with impressive coherence. Its approach is that of political ecology which builds on, and incorporates, agrarian political economy in its framing by class relations of land and labour and, importantly also, patterns of trade (commodity exchange) and financial circuits of taxation, credit, and so on. The historical account posits a ‘long-lasting latifundist agrarian class structure’ from the thirteenth-century Catalan conquest and colonization of Mallorca through various phases and mutations with effects for landed property, peasant farming and agrarian labour until the turn of the twentieth century when liberal reforms in the nineteenth century contributed to a crisis of latifundia and a process of ‘peasantization’ – or perhaps (re)emergence of peasants who had clung on through a long series of depredations and constraints: ‘All [the] evolving farm systems and their distinct cultural landscapes were always shaped by peasants, either in times of revolt or by means of their everyday resistance… Despite their own heterogeneity, and thanks to their farming ingenuity that took advantage of site‐specific agroecological possibilities, the Mallorcan peasantry was able to endure the hoarding of land in the hands of large landowners over four centuries and to shape the contemporary landscapes of the island.’ (485)

The editors of JAC would like to congratulate Enric Tello, Gabriel Jover, Ivan Murray, Onofre Fullana and Ricard Soto on their impressive achievement and especially for providing an excellent example of multidisciplinarity in team-based research. We want to use this as an opportunity to encourage others to engage in intellectually ambitious and empirically rigorous work in agrarian political economy of this sort; the Journal of Agrarian Change will continue to welcome such submissions.