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Modelling the Middle AgesThe History and Theory of England's Economic Development$

John Hatcher and Mark Bailey

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199244119

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199244119.001.0001

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(p.241) Guide to Further Reading

(p.241) Guide to Further Reading

Modelling the Middle Ages
Oxford University Press

I. Population and Resources in History

Theoretical Foundations

The works of the late eighteenth-century economists T. R. Malthus and D. Ricardo provide the inspiration for much of the modelling based on the relationship of population and resources and the relative scarcity of land, labour, and capital. Ricardo's main contributions to this field are contained in The Principles of Political Economy, first published in 1817, and those of Malthus are contained in An Essay on the Principle of Population, first published in 1798. The modern editions used in this book are T. R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, ed. D. Winch (Cambridge, 1992) and The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. P. Sraffa, 11 vols. (Cambridge, 1952–73). An accessible short introduction to the ideas of Malthus is D. Winch, Malthus (Oxford, 1987); informative commentaries on the work of Malthus and Ricardo are contained in D. P. O'Brien, The Classical Economists (Oxford, 1975); M. Blaug, Ricardian Economics: An Historical Study (New Haven, 1958); J. Dupaquier, A. Fauve-Chamoux, and E. Grebenik (eds.), Malthus, Past and Present (1983); and W. Peterson, Malthus (1979). E. A. Wrigley, Population and History (1969) and D. B. Grigg, Population Growth and Agrarian Change: An Historical Perspective (Cambridge, 1980), (p.242) survey the application of Malthusian theory to historical situations. For more advanced reading, see the essays in M. S. Teitelbaum and J. M. Winter (eds.), Population and Resources in Western Intellectual Traditions (Cambridge, 1989); M. Turner (ed.), Malthus and his Time (New York, 1986); and D. Coleman and R. Schofield (eds.), The State of Population Theory: Forward from Malthus (Oxford, 1986).

Key Historical Works

M. M. Postan is the leading architect of neo-Malthusian and Ricardian explanations of medieval economic development. Many of his more important essays have been republished in Essays on Medieval Agriculture and General Problems of the Medieval Economy (Cambridge, 1973) and Essays on Medieval Trade and Finance (Cambridge, 1973). These volumes, together with his ‘Medieval Agrarian Society in its Prime’, in M. M. Postan (ed.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, i. Agrarian Life in the Middle Ages, 2nd edn. (Cambridge, 1966), 548–659, provide the best overview of his contribution. Postan's textbook, The Medieval Economy and Society: An Economic History of Britain, 1100–1500 (1972), was written late in his life and lacks the sharpness of his earlier work. J. Z. Titow, English Rural Society, 1200–1350 (1969), argues a powerful supporting case for the progressive impoverishment of large proportions of the English peasantry. The pre-eminent neo-Malthusian intepretations of European history have been made by W. Abel, Agricultural Fluctuations in Europe from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Centuries (1980 edn., first published in 1935); and E. Le Roy Ladurie, Les Paysans de Languedoc, 2 vols. (Paris, 1966); ‘En Haute-Normandie: Malthus ou Marx?’, Annales ESC 33 (1978); and Territoire de l'historien, 2 vols. (Paris, 1973–8).

(p.243) Related Reading

E. Miller, ‘The Thirteenth Century: Implications of Recent Research’, P&P 28 (1964); E. Miller and J. Hatcher, Medieval England: Rural Society and Economic Change, 1086–1348 (1978); J. L. Bolton, The Medieval English Economy, 1150–1500 (1980); B. M. S. Campbell (ed.), Before the Black Death: Studies in the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century (Manchester, 1991); W. C. Jordan, The Great Famine in Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century (Princeton, 1996); J. Hatcher, Plague, Population and the English Economy, 1348–1530 (1977); The Agrarian History of England and Wales, ii. 1042–1350, ed. H. E. Hallam (Cambridge, 1988); The Agrarian History of England and Wales, iii. 1348–1500, ed. E. Miller (Cambridge, 1991).

The major conflicting interpretations of the Middle Ages are, of course, listed under the following sections, but additional direct criticisms of Postan's case for a Malthusian-style crisis in the early fourteenth century include: H. E. Hallam, Rural England, 1066–1348 (1981 edn.), esp.10–16, 245–64; B. Harvey, ‘Introduction: The “Crisis” of the early fourteenth century’, in Campbell (ed.), Before the Black Death: Studies in the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century (Manchester, 1991), 1–24; and M. Desai, ‘The Agrarian Crisis in Medieval England: A Malthusian Tragedy or a Failure of Entitlements’, Bulletin of Economic Research, 43 (1991). For criticisms of Postan's interpretation of the later Middle Ages, see A. R. Bridbury, Economic Growth: England in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd edn. (1975); P. Nightingale, ‘England and the European Depression of the Mid-fifteenth Century’, Journal of European Economic History, 26 (1997); N. J. Mayhew, ‘Population, Money Supply, and the Velocity of Circulation in England, 1300–1700’, EcHR, 2nd ser., 48 (1995). On a broader level, M. Levi-Bacci, Population and Nutrition: An Essay on European Demographic History (Cambridge, 1990), argues against the existence of a long-term interrelationship between subsistence or nutritional levels and mortality, and for the importance of epidemiological cycles.

(p.244) II. Class Power and Property Relations in History

Theoretical Foundations

The central texts for Karl Marx's analysis of the feudal economy and the transition of capitalism are to be found in Capital, published in three volumes, 1867–94, and the Grundrisse, which was written in 1857–8 but not published until 1953. The modern editions used in this book are: Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, ed. F. Engels, 3 vols. (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1979 edn.), and H. J. Hobsbawm (ed.), Karl Marx: Pre-capitalist Economic Formations (1964). Among the plethora of commentaries on these works, B. Fine, Marx's Capital, 2nd edn. (1984) and A. Brewer, A Guide to Marx's Capital (Cambridge, 1984) are recommended for their brevity and accessibility. For informative discourses on Marxist theory and Marx's theory of history, see e.g. G. A. Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (Oxford, 1978); S. H. Rigby, Marxism and History: A Critical Introduction (Manchester, 1987); W. H. Shaw, Marx's Theory of History (1978); J. Elster, Making Sense of Marx (Cambridge, 1985). For a largely theoretical approach to history, written from a Marxist perspective, see B. Hindess and P. Q. Hirst, Pre-capitalist Modes of Production (1975).

Key Historical Works

The classic Marxist interpretations of England's medieval history are M. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism (1963 edn.); and E. A. Kosminsky, Studies in the Agrarian History of England in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford, 1956) and E. A. Kosminsky, ‘The Evolution of Feudal Rent in England from the XIth to the XVth (p.245) Centuries’, P&P 7 (1955). In more recent years R. Brenner has made a number of important contributions including ‘Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe’, P&P 70 (1976), and ‘The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism’, P&P 97 (1982), which are both reprinted in T. H. Aston and C. H. E. Philpin (eds.), The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe (Cambridge, 1985), and ‘The Origins of Capitalist Development: A Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism’, New Left Review, 104 (1997). R. H. Hilton, is the leading Marxist historian of England, and from his voluminous publications the following are suggested as most central to the issues discussed in this book: ‘Peasant Movements in England before 1381’, EcHR 2 (1949), reprinted in E. M. Carus-Wilson (ed.), Essays in Economic History, i (1962); ‘Freedom and Villeinage in England’, P&P 31 (1965); The Decline of Serfdom in Medieval England (1969); Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381 (1973); The English Peasantry in the Later Middle Ages: The Ford Lectures and Related Studies (Oxford, 1975) and Class Conflict and the Crisis of Feudalism (1985). Hilton's, ‘A Crisis of Feudalism’, P&P 80 (1978), is much influenced by the argument put forward in G. Bois, The Crisis of Feudalism: Economy and Society in Eastern Normandy, c.1300–1550 (Cambridge, 1976), that thirteenth-century landlords experienced severe difficulties in increasing the burdens on their peasants.

There have been many debates among Marxists and between Marxists and non-Marxists, and particularly recommended are: R. Hilton (ed.), The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism (1976), which contains a number of contributions to the important debate which arose from the publications of Dobb's Development of Capitalism; and Aston and Philpin (eds.), The Brenner Debate, a crucial collection of essays. Among the many overviews of Marxist interpretations of medieval history are R. J. Holton, The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism (1985) and J. E. Martin, Feudalism to (p.246) Capitalism: Peasant and Landlord in English Agrarian Development (1983).

Related Reading

The oppressions of lordship and the resistance it provoked are stressed in R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston (eds.), The English Rising of 1381 (Cambridge, 1984), esp. the essays by C. Dyer, ‘The Social and Economic Background to the Rural Revolt of 1381’ and R. Faith, ‘The “Great Rumour” of 1377’; C. C. Dyer, Everyday Life in Medieval England (1994), esp. ‘Power and Conflict in the Medieval Village’, ‘The Rising of 1381 in Suffolk: Its Origins and Participants’; R. Faith, The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (Leicester, 1997). E. B. Fryde, Peasants and Landlords in Later Medieval England (Stroud, 1996) and J. A. Raftis, Peasant Economic Development within the English Manorial System (Montreal, 1997) provide different perspectives. Apart from the key works listed in Section I, the most sustained challenge to the view that rural England was the battleground for a constant struggle between landlords and tenants, comes from the ‘Toronto school’ of historians. See e.g. J. A. Raftis, Tenure and Mobility: Studies in the Social History of the Medieval English Village (Toronto, 1964); J. A. Raftis, Warboys: Two Hundred Years in the Life of an English Medieval Village (Toronto, 1974); E. B. Dewindt, Land and People in Hollywell-cum-Needingworth (Toronto, 1972); E. Britton, The Community of the Vill: A Study in the History of Family and Village Life in Fourteenth-Century England (Toronto, 1977). Z. Razi, ‘The Toronto School's Reconstitution of Medieval Peasant Society: A Critical View’, P&P 85 (1979), provides a critique of the methods used in these studies and an alternative interpretation of the evidence which they rely on.

(p.247) III. Commercialization, Technology, and Markets in History

Theoretical Foundations:

Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776, and The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759. The modern edition of the Wealth of Nations quoted in this volume is that prepared by R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner (Oxford, 1976), and the same authors have written a valuable book on Smith's ideas: Adam Smith (1982). Also recommended is the essay on Smith in D. P. O'Brien, The Classical Economists (Oxford, 1975); A. S. Skinner and T. Wilson (eds.), Essays on Adam Smith (Oxford, 1973); E. G. West, Adam Smith: The Man and his Work (New York, 1969). Influential, and largely theoretical, expositions of the role of the market and improvements in efficiency and technology in economic development include P. Hall (ed.), Von Thünen's Isolated State (1966); E. Boserup, Population and Technology (Oxford, 1981); E. Boserup, Population and Technological Change: A Study in Long-term Trends (Chicago, 1981). J. Hicks, A Theory of Economic History (Oxford, 1969) has the evolution of the market at its core, and the importance of trade as a dynamic factor in history is also stressed in I. Wallerstein, The Modern World System, 2 vols. (New York, 1974–80). K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944) and The Livelihood of Man (New York, 1977), provide some challenging interpretations of the role of exchange and markets over the centuries. K. G. Persson, Pre-industrial Economic Growth: Social Organisation and Technical Progress in Europe (Oxford, 1988), interprets medieval economic development from the perspective of commercialization and technical progress.

(p.248) Key Historical Works

Although there are no modern studies of commercialization and technical progress in medieval England which provide tightly argued theoretical and empirical expositions comparable to those which have been written from the demographic and the Marxist perspectives, the following books and articles contain much that is indicative of recent research and interpretation in this area: B. M. S. Campbell, J. A. Galloway, D. Keene, and M. Murphy, A Medieval Capital and its Grain Supply: Agrarian Production and Distribution in the London Region c.1300, Historical Geography Research Series, 30 (1993); B. M. S. Campbell, ‘Land and People in the Middle Ages: 1066–1500’, in R. A. Dodgshon and R. A. Butlin (eds.), An Historical Geography of England and Wales (1990); B. M. S. Campbell, ‘Agricultural Progress in Medieval England: Some Evidence from Eastern Norfolk’, EcHR, 2nd ser., 36 (1983), 26–4; R. H. Britnell and B. M. S. Campbell (eds.), A Commercialising Economy: England 1086–c.1300 (Manchester, 1995); R. H. Britnell, The Commercialisation of English Society, 1000–1500, 2nd edn. (Manchester, 1996); J. Langdon, Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1086 to 1500 (Cambridge, 1986); J. Masschaele, Peasants, Merchants and Markets: Inland Trade in Medieval England, 1150–1350 (Basingstoke, 1997); G. W. Grantham, ‘Espace privilégies: Productivité agraire et zones d'approvisionnement des villes dans l'Europe preindustrielle’, Annales ESC (1997). L. White, Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change (Oxford, 1962), is a forceful argument in favour of the revolutionary impact of technical progress.

Related Works

C. Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c.1200–1520 (Cambridge, 1989); S. Reynolds, (p.249) An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns (Oxford, 1977); E. Miller and J. Hatcher, Medieval England: Towns, Commerce and Crafts, 1086–1350 (1995); P. Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1988); J. Day, The Medieval Market Economy (Oxford, 1987); M. Bailey, ‘The Commercialisation of the English Economy, 1086–1500’, Journal of Medieval History, 24 (1998).

IV. Historical Methods and New Interpretations

J. L. Anderson, Explaining Long-Term Economic Change (Basingstoke, 1991), provides a brief introduction to some of the leading models. S. H. Rigby, English Society in the Later Middle Ages: Class, Status and Gender (1995), uses social theory to illuminate the social history of the later Middle Ages, and also supplies intelligent critiques of various approaches to the writing of its economic history. N. Hybel, Crisis or Change? The Concept of Crisis in the Light of Agrarian Structural Reorganisation in Late Medieval England (Aarhus, 1989), provides a commentary on many of the major works on medieval English economic history.

For the writing of history using the methods and theory of the social sciences, see M. M. Postan, Fact and Relevance: Essays on Historical Method (Cambridge, 1971); D. C. Coleman, History and the Economic Past: The Rise and Decline of Economic History (Oxford, 1987); C. M. Cipolla, Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History (Oxford, 1991); W. N. Parker (ed.), Economic History and the Modern Economist (Oxford, 1986). K. Jenkins, Rethinking History (1991) and A. Munslow, Deconstructing History (1997) impart some of the flavour of recent excursions into the implications for history of postmodernism and structuralism; R. J. Evans, In Defence of (p.250) History (1997), mounts a spirited attempt to refute these fashionable modes of thought. A popular account of the development of Chaos Theory is J. Gleick, Chaos, Making a New Science (1987). S. J. Goerner, ‘Chaos and Deep Ecology’, in Chaos Theory in Psychology, ed. F. D. Abraham and A. R. Gilgen (Westport, Conn., 1995) and D. Parker and R. Stacey, Chaos, Management and Economics: The Implications of Non-linear Thinking, Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart paper, 125 (1994), are useful essays on the implications of Chaos Theory for the social sciences.

The most significant of the plethora of alternative theories and models of economic and social development which have not received detailed attention in this book are: D. C. North and R. Thomas, The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History (Cambridge, 1973) and D. C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History (1981); P. Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (1974) and Lineages of the Absolutist State (1974); I. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, i. Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (Orlando, Fla., 1974).