Van Zanden J. L. (2002) The revolt of the early modernists and the first modern economy

May 18, 2008

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2002) “The ‘revolt of the early modernists’ and the ‘first modern economy’: an assessment”, Economic History Review, 55/4, 619-641.


The vision the historians (Abel, Le Roy Ladurie) of the 1950-60s had of the early modern European economy was particularly pessimistic. They emphasized increase of poverty and production ceilings. In their view this agrarian stagnation was abruptly ended by the Industrial Revolution (I.R.). Later the consensus shifted toward a more gradual improvement of productivity and the very term ‘revolution’ was kept only out of convenience (Craft) (p.619). Developments such as international trade, proto-industry, enhanced agricultural productivity were seen as necessary for the structural changes of the 19th century to take place. De Vries branded this revisionist pattern the ‘revolt of the early modernists’ (Persson). Read the rest of this entry »