A Concise Economic History of Britain: From the Earliest Times to 1750

A Concise Economic History of Britain: From the Earliest Times to 1750

A Concise Economic History of Britain: From the Earliest Times to 1750

A Concise Economic History of Britain: From the Earliest Times to 1750

Excerpt

Of all varieties of history the economic is the most fundamental. Not the most important: foundations exist to carry better things. How a man lives with his family, his tribe or his fellow-citizens; the songs he sings; what he feels and thinks when he looks at the sunset; the prayers he raises--all these are more important than the nature of his tools, his trick of swapping things with his neighbours, the way he holds and tills his fields, his inventions and their consequences, his money --when he has learnt to use it--his savings and what he does with them. Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress. The man with a motor-car may have less imagination, and perhaps a baser religion, than the men who frequented Stonehenge. But economic activity, with its tools, fields, trade, inventions and investment, is the basement of man's house. Its judicious structure and use have, in course of ages, provided, first for a privileged few and then for more, chances to practise high arts, organise great states, design splendid temples, or think at leisure about the meaning of the world; though a lone shepherd in a poor society may also have time to think. The economic basement may be dull, but need not be. A patch of earth dug level, a right stroke with a felling axe, a neat bit of welding, a locomotive brought smoothly to rest, even a tidy balance sheet or a quick calculation in forward exchange, all yield the craftsman's, not to say the artist's, satisfaction. Most sports of leisured people are variants of old economic activities --or of warlike ones. Men first hunted the deer to get his flesh to eat or his leather skin to wear; they first climbed mountains to save the sheep or kill chamois. As most men and most ages have had little leisure, it is a comfort for the economic historian to remember that the sun has seldom completely failed to get into this basement of his.

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