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But it [can] also be done just as effectively by changing the physical face of the land, eradicating in one or two generations many of the signs of the old culture, and making it difficult for people to imagine a time when the land was anything other than a commodity to be converted into cash. Rollison, D. Post to Cancel.


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Don't have an account? Currency and addition of Tax VAT depend on your shipping address. References in The Origin of Capitalism in England, — Author: Spencer Dimmock. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token. Have Institutional Access? Forgot your password?

PDF Preview. Table of Contents. It became one of the bases of the division into parties in the civil war, when, as a contemporary puritan minister recorded, the king's cause in Bristol was favoured by 'the wealthy and powerful men The rapid rise of colonial enterprise in the s and 5Os had provided new openings for small shopkeepers and artisans to enter into overseas commerce. In the early s, hundreds of townsmen, some of them not even sworn burgesses of the city, engaged freely in dealings with the Chesapeake region and the West Indies, shipping small wares and indentured servants in return for the tobacco and sugar their overseas customers produced.

A number of these figures had a history of political support for parliament and the New Model Army; many too were members of the sects.

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The exclusion of shopkeepers and artisans from engaging in the profession of a merchant not only maximised the profits of the latter, but also upheld the concept of hierarchy, which as it separated the status and function of gentlemen from that of plebeians, so it separated the status and function of merchants from that of shopkeepers and artisans. Challenge to the ecclesiastical hierarchy by the 'middle sort' radicals--demand for abolition of episcopacy--correlated with challenge to the secular hierarchy; rights were located in the community rather than in the status or function of a particular group, and as the radical religious sects regarded liberty of conscience as a natural right, so they regarded liberty to trade as a natural right.

The Levellers said that it was the 'birthright' of 'every Englishman' who 'hath propriety of goods, wares, and merchandise' 'to transport the same to any place beyond the seas, and there to convert them to his own profit'. They argued that it was contrary to the native rights of Englishmen and the fundamental laws of the land to prevent a man from trading to certain parts of the world because he did not belong to a company.

These men were largely cut off from the sources of commercial, political, and ecclesiastical power by the privileged merchant companies that controlled much of foreign trade, by the aldermanic oligarchy that dominated city government, and by the crown and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which exerted a stranglehold over the official parish churches of London. They were, in consequence, open to religio-political courses of action This was a political conflict that had a clear social character, as the forces of order drew the core of their strength from the privileged overseas company merchants of London and the forces of revolt drew theirs primarily from non-merchant citizens outside the ranks of London's wholesalers.

How does Brenner's thesis in this book relate to his general interpretation of the transition from feudalism to capitalism and of the English Revolution? Two points of debate are central: who were the agents of transition and how far had the transition proceeded by ?

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Brenner explains the transition from feudalism to capitalism in terms of ' The weakening of that power, as a result of peasant resistance, caused a crisis from which the feudal class recovered by shifting from claims to power over people to claims to power over land. Smaller holdings were consolidated into larger farms, which were cultivated not for subsistence but for the market, by means of wage labour. Landlords entered into 'contractual relations with free, market-dependent commercial tenants who increasingly hired wage workers Capitalism developed in England from the end of the medieval period by means of the self-transformation of the old structure, specifically the self-transformation of the landed classes.

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As a result, the rise of capitalism took place within the shell of landlord property and thus, in the long run, not in contradiction with and to the detriment of, but rather to the benefit of the landed aristocracy. Thus Brenner rules out conflict between the aristocracy and an emerging capitalist class. By he thinks that the old ruling class 'was by and large--though not of course uniformly--capitalist, in the sense of depending on commercial farmers paying competitive rents In contrast to Brenner's focus upon the aristocrats transforming themselves from feudal lords to capitalist landowners, Dobb's focus was on small producers rising to become capitalists.

Dobb followed closely Marx's chapter on 'Primary Accumulation' in Volume One of Capital , where the first stage of the development of capitalism was the emergence of richer peasants who expanded their holdings and employed wage labour, so that ' Dobb dwelt on the process of differentiation among the peasantry in medieval England, which led to a strata of richer and poorer peasants.

He pointed to 'the rise of relatively well-to-do peasant-farmers in the village', who, by taking advantage of local trade and local markets, accumulated small amounts of capital, improved their lands and enlarged their holdings, and hired the services of their poorer neighbours. The 16th century. Among these there developed It was by this class of rising yeomen farmers that most of the improvements in methods of cultivation seem to have been pioneered.

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Dobb saw the point of transition as being when the 'growth in the resources of the small man' became 'sufficient to cause him to place greater reliance on the results of hired labour than on the work of himself and his family, and in his calculations to relate the gains of his enterprise to his capital rather than to his own exertions This also occurred, according to Dobb, in industry, as the next and most vital stage of the transition to capitalism. This final stage generally seems, as Marx pointed out, to have been associated with the rise from the ranks of the producers themselves of a capitalist element, half-manufacturer, half-merchant, which began to subordinate and to organise those very ranks from which it had so recently risen.

There is a conflict between the idea of capitalism developing from below in Dobb's account and the idea of capitalism developing from above in Brenner's account. But there had to be the developments such as Dobb described if there were to be the developments such as Brenner describes, for there had to have come into existence, before the aristocracy could be transformed, richer peasants who could afford to lease the larger farms, and who had the capital to invest in wage labour and improving production.


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Patricia Croot and David Parker comment that Brenner's 'concept of capitalist relations is narrow and cannot do justice to the perhaps decisive role played by the small capitalist farmers at least from the early 16th to the midth century. The insertion of a phase of petty capitalist accumulation before and alongside the transformation of the aristocrats into capitalists can partially save Brenner's thesis, but there is still a difficulty about his view that by the time of the English Revolution the ruling class was ' Dobb thought that before the revolution the ruling class was still by and large feudal, maintaining that 'the majority of small tenants, although they paid a money rent which was, however, more often a customary payment than an economic rent , were still largely tied in various ways and subordinated to manorial authority' and that labourers still often had some land and common rights and were not solely dependent on wages: 'Social relations in the countryside between producers and their lords and masters retained much of their medieval character, and much of the integument at least of the feudal order remained.

Those are bare assertions, and whether the focus is upon the aristocrats or the yeomen, there is a problem about how far capitalism had advanced by , and whether the mode of production had changed. It is not just a question of how many peasants and artisans had become petty capitalists or how many landlords had become big capitalists, but also how far the poorer peasants and artisans had been reduced to a proletariat.

Capitalism presupposes the existence of a proletariat It assumes a 'primary' aspect because it belongs to the primary phase that is traversed immediately before the history of capitalism begins, immediately before the establishment of the method of production proper to capitalism. The expropriation of the great mass of people from the land, from the means of subsistence, and from the instruments of labour Before , however, small peasant farming was still viable and predominated in many areas, and artisans often possessed small holdings.

The degree of dependence of labourers on wages was reduced by the possession of a little land and the rights to pasture a few animals on the commons, and to take fuel and building materials.