Economic History of Europe to the End of the Middle Ages

Economic History of Europe to the End of the Middle Ages

Economic History of Europe to the End of the Middle Ages

Economic History of Europe to the End of the Middle Ages

Excerpt

As Professor Knight explains in his preface, the present volume forms the first part of a general economic history of Europe. A second volume, largely prepared by other writers, will bring the account down to the present day. Professor Knight's chapters, however, covering as they do the whole long period down to the time when revolutionary economic changes began to mould the western world into its present form, have their own separate unity and are therefore published as a separate volume.

The really important questions about a book of this kind are such as these: On what general plan is it constructed? What sorts of interests does it reflect? Why are some particular things included and others excluded? On what present-day issues does it throw light? What questions does it answer?

It will be observed first of all that Professor Knight tries to avoid imprisoning history in concepts and categories. There are no inexorable "causes" in his pages, no "economic stages," no "laws of historical sequence." Few writers of economic histories have been so successful in keeping clear of forced and arbitrary "interpretations" and "philosophies."

And yet, if history is to be anything more than mere annals, it must have some sort of symmetrical pattern. Out of the infinitely complex fabric of events and circumstance that constitutes the past some particular threads of continuity have to be selected. The field of selection is limited, of course, by the extent and the nature of the records that have come down to us from earlier centuries. It is necessarily conditioned in some degree by the character of the forms and patterns which other writers of history have used. But within those limits and subject to those conditions the selection must be determined by the interests of the writer, and these are bound to be, in part, the interests of his generation.

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