Medieval Economic Thought

Medieval Economic Thought

Medieval Economic Thought

Medieval Economic Thought

Synopsis

This book offers an introduction to medieval economic thought, as it emerges from the works of the twelfth to the fifteenth century academic theologians, lawyers and other sources. Using Italian merchants' writings, vernacular poetry, parliamentary legislation, and manorial court rolls, it discusses property, charity, the role of money, weights, measures, coinage, trade, fair price and fair wage. It makes a relatively neglected subject accessible by exploring the relationship between theory and practice.

Excerpt

The subject of medieval economic thought is not in any sense a popular one–indeed, its mention is a positive conversation stopper. When I embarked upon it I had three basic assumptions. The first was that relatively little had been written about it. I could not have been more wrong. The bookshelves were already groaning, and the appearance of Odd Langholm's magisterial work, Economics in the Medieval Schools, in 1992 totally transformed the approach to the subject. The second assumption was that it would be possible to write about economic thought in isolation from economic practice. Those who were kind enough to read the first draft of my typescript soon pointed out this error. The result has been an attempt to integrate theory and practice, while desperately trying to keep the book to a manageable length. I am well aware that I have had to skate over many highly controversial areas of medieval economic history which deserve far deeper discussion than was possible here. The third assumption was that it should be feasible for someone like myself with no training in economics, but with experience in teaching medieval economic and social history (the two being inseparable) and the history of political ideas to write about medieval economic thought. I offer no judgement on this.

Anyone studying medieval economic history becomes aware of immense local variations. These exist not just in geographical, geological, or climatic terms, but also in what actually happened, in economic and social reactions, and in a mass of local custom and legislation. This makes generalization difficult and over simplification an ever-present danger. The point has been underlined in a recent study by John Hatcher and Mark Bailey, Modelling the Middle Ages: the History and Theory of England's Economic Development (Oxford, 2001), which unfortunately appeared too late for me . . .

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