Freedom and Growth: The Rise of States and Markets in Europe, 1300-1750

Freedom and Growth: The Rise of States and Markets in Europe, 1300-1750

Freedom and Growth: The Rise of States and Markets in Europe, 1300-1750

Freedom and Growth: The Rise of States and Markets in Europe, 1300-1750

Synopsis

This book examines whether different kinds of freedoms caused different economic outcomes, and shows the effect of different political regimes on long term development.

Excerpt

States and markets

Things happen when they have to, usually at the wrong time.

Nairn 1997:16

Economic history has three major narrative themes: the transition from autarky to market society (or market integration), the development of technology or productive forces, and the extension of manufactory in a fundamentally agrarian world. Its central questions are why past growth was so slow and intermittent, and why economic performance differs between differently structured societies over time. This book addresses the question of what caused historical growth by examining the creation of markets and the consequences of market integration in late medieval and early modern Europe: pre-modern Europe for short.

Until quite recently most historians would have considered such questions nonsensical. The prevailing Ricardo-Malthusian view of premodern societies was deeply pessimistic. With static technology and little knowledge among the peasantry to control population size, pre-modern economic growth was a contradiction in terms. Diminishing returns were inescapable, and demand inevitably and regularly outran supply. In the terms popularised by the historians associated with the Annales, Fernand Braudel's longue durée, the nearly unchanging substratum of everyday life became conceptually interchangeable with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's histoire immobile, the eternal return of the 'Malthusian cycle' of overpopulation and agrarian involution. The neo-Malthusian model derived its popularity from its theoretical parsimony, its consistency with most of the known facts, and its appeal to the nineteenth-century Romantic belief in the profoundly conservative and 'anti-capitalist' mentality of the peasantry. But the model's simplicity was also the source of its major weaknesses, namely that it could explain neither how late

1 The term pre-modern has no normative connotation, and is simply used to refer to the period between 1200 and 1800 as a whole.

2 For a lucid exposition, see Grantham 1999.

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