Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700

Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700

Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700

Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700


During the seven hundred years before the Industrial Revolution, the stage was set for Europe's transformation from a backward agrarian society to a powerful industrialized society. An economic historian of international reputation, Carlo M. Cipolla explores the process that made this transformation possible. In so doing, he sheds light not only on the economic factors but on the culture surrounding them.


The world in which we live and the problems we face cannot be understood without referring to that momentous upheaval known as the Industrial Revolution. Yet the Industrial Revolution was only the final phase, the coherent outcome of a historical development which took place in Europe over the first seven centuries of our now expiring millennium. The purpose of this book is to offer an up-to-date and fully documented summary of the human developments from which our world, with all its blessings and all its woes, eventually emerged.

The book is therefore intended for both students and general readers; although focused on social and economic problems, its approach is essentially interdisciplinary. This double ambivalence may help to explain some of its peculiarities.

Style and exposition have been kept at a reasonably simple level but no efforts have been spared to provide the reader with precise references, abundant statistical material and a wealth of bibliographical information. Disconcerting technicalities have been eliminated without sacrificing scholarly accuracy. At the same time the logical tools of economic and social analysis have been clearly spelled out rather than taken for granted or hidden away in the tissue of the narrative. This, it is hoped, will help the economics student to trace the connections between economic theory and economic history, while acquainting the layman with some of the basic tools of contemporary social sciences.

The book has been organized in two parts. In Part I our analysis is essentially static. It aims to clarify the way in which the society and economy of preindustrial Europe functioned, while emphasizing certain constant characteristics of that society and that economy. Part II illustrates the changes which took place within that framework and which gradually transformed Europe from a primitive, uninteresting and underdeveloped corner of the world, under constant threat from its more powerful neighbors, into a dynamic, highly developed and creative society which came to establish undisputed political, cultural, and economic predominance all over the globe.

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