Economic History of Europe in Modern Times

By Melvin M. Knight; Harry Elmer Barnes et al. | Go to book overview
argument concerning the rôle of Puritanism, as sketched above. To begin with, it is open to doubt if English town society was more commercialized or individualistic than that of the Continent at the time of the rise of the Puritans. Carefully analyzed, do Charles I's mercantile policies suggest "Colbertism" or "state capitalism" any more than those of Cromwell, under whose régime the first of the Navigation Acts was passed? As to Anglican and Catholic opposition, were they not on exactly the same grounds? No convincing proof is presented that such moves as the legalization of interest were more (or less) delayed on the Continent than in England because of religious opposition. If the resentment of the business community against the nobles burned hotter in England, or was more effective, it was certainly not primarily because their privileges were greater; nor is it to be admitted offhand that their resistance to change accelerated it. Was Puritanism a "cause" or a mere incident of the growth of English cities, with their commerce, industry, and typically urban point of view?The final two items, comparing England with Germany and France, are perhaps the most dubious of all as explanations. Once Germany's political disunity was cured, capitalism made as rapid strides as anywhere in Europe, which suggests at least one tangible reason for any earlier backwardness. Moreover, her case takes us back to the main religious argument. The most highly industrialized regions of modern Germany are divided between Catholicism and Protestantism, depending, it would seem, upon natural resources and location. Likewise, the industrial region of northeastern France is Catholic. And how about Belgium, whose industrial concentration is hardly surpassed in Europe? It is not proved, and seems hardly susceptible of proof, that French thought is any less individualistic than English. Before we attach too much weight to its being dominated by the speculations of philosophers, we should demand both definitions of the terms and substantial evidence as to the facts.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
This chapter and the previous one covering the same period of time, the sources naturally overlap. Note particularly the references above to the works of Hauser, Sombart, Strieder, Tawney, and Weber on the origins of capitalism. We might add Sombart books, The Jews and Modern Capitalism, and The Quintesence of Capitalism.
Abbott W. C.: The Expansion of Europe, vol. I, chaps. X, XXI.
Ashley W. J.: The Economic Organization of England, lectures IV-VI.

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