The involvement of rural populations in market activities in the past is still debated. Were people lured into the market by the prospect of a better lifestyle, or pushed into the market for lack of any alternative means of coping? This research investigates the involvement of Flanders’ rural population in commodity markets in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Flanders has been one of the most urbanised regions in Europe since the Late Middle Ages, and it has had a highly diverse and productive agricultural sector. Cereal exports and rural proto-industry were behind the economic expansion of the Flemish countryside in the eighteenth century, but in the nineteenth century the region slid back into deep poverty. This research studies two different regions in Flanders in a comparative way. It focuses on the extent of market involvement of rural producers, the circumstances in which producers were involved, and the extent to which markets were accessible to them. It is argued that rural social structure had more influence on the extent of market involvement than accessibility of the markets.