Storage for subsistence. Regensburg´s hospital granary (17th - 19th centuries)

Prof. Dr. Mark Spoerer, Regensburg

Kathrin Pindl, M.A., Regensburg


The project´s core aim is a case study of the grain storage policy of St Catherine´s hospital in Regensburg from the late 17th century until the late 19th century. The focus is on the economic behaviour of the main actors, whose task was to provide sufficient food for the persons working and/or living in the hospital. On basis of their experience, these actors formed expectations, shaping their economic actions. The unusually rich sources allow us to observe (part of) the experience and (part of) the actions and enables us to hypothesize on the formation of their expectations which, by its nature, is unobservable.

The comparison of granary documents with narrative evidence allows an empirical assessment of their success or failure in terms of food security which is also a test of the accuracy of (written) expectations. In particular we ask whether the hospital had a storage policy at all. If so, how did the storage policy or policies look like? In the course of time, did the policy undergo significant changes? And if so, when and why? Do these changes reflect the effect of (economic) learning? In how far were the hospital officials able to anticipate demand and supply on Regensburg´s grain market? Can we find any evidence within the sources pointing towards a systematic analysis of past experiences? Which role did planning horizons play in an era of high volatility? Did the uncertainty of the environment (e.g. price volatility) change, and were the actors aware of this? Do we witness a process of “economization” of expectations? Do the hospital´s storage policies correspond to today’s concepts of adaptive or rational expectations (Pesaran 1987)? Do they conform to howsoever defined concepts of “rationality” (Muth 1961, Sheffrin 1996, Kirman 2014)? And, for better or worse: Are we doing justice to the complexity of the subject by limiting our description of the hospital´s storage policy to modern concepts of expectations or rationality?