The role of the peasant has been a major theme for agricultural economists throughout the ages. 'Irrational' decision-making among peasants was as likely to worry scholars in medieval Islam as in twentieth-century Brazil or eighteenth-century France. The efficiency of smallholdings as units of production was as important in nineteenth-century Germany and Mexico as in twentieth-century India and sub-Saharan Africa. In The Peasant in Economic Thought, a distinguished group of scholars examines the role of the peasant in agricultural economies from a variety of cultural and disciplinary perspectives. Beginning with a paper on the peasant proprietor in classical economics, the volume continues with work on Friedrich List, Thomas Robert Malthus and Thomas Chalmers, J.S. Mill and the Hutterites of Manitoba, rent in Fabian economics, and the peasant in nineteenth century Mexican liberal thought. Later papers focus on the Brazilian peasantry in nineteenth century economic thought, land in Medieval Islamic thought and decision-making in contemporary African peasant households.
Economists, historians and environmentalists trace lines of influence - centring on John Stuart Mill's liberalism and Auguste Comte's positivism - which affected debate in England, Latin America, Canada, India and sub-Saharan Africa.