DuPlessis R. & Howell M. (1982) Killing capitalism in its craddle (twice)

November 21, 2009

DuPlessis, Robert S. and Martha C. Howell (1982) Reconsidering the Early Modern Urban Economy : The Case of Leiden and Lille. Past and Present, 94/, 49-84.

In Marx’s view, capitalism had arisen in the late Middle Ages out of a production system dominated by lords and guilds. In this framework, urban economies can be regarded as the craddle of capitalism (p.44), the places where capital and labour were separated through the use of putting-out, or the hiring of a migrant or female workforce (p.45). However some cities, such as Leiden and Lille where artisans remained proprietors of their means of production, still managed to integrated the very competitive European textile market (p.46). Read the rest of this entry »

Thompson, J.K.J. (1983) Proto-industry in Languedoc

February 4, 2009

Thompson, J.K.J. (1983) “Variations in industrial structure in pre-industrial Languedoc”, in Berg, Maxine, Hudson, Pat, and Sonenscher, Michael, Manufacture in town and country before the factory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 61-91.


Languedoc hosted France’s (and potentially Europe’s) largest pre-modern concentration of textile textile production (p.61). Yet it does not fit in F. Mendel’s proto-industrialisation model: it was mostly a urban phenomenon, which dated back from the Middle Ages and it did not lead to a regional Industrial Revolution after 1800 (p.62). Read the rest of this entry »

Wiesner M. (1999) Single working women in premodern Germany

January 22, 2009

Wiesner Merry E. (1999) “Having her own smoke. Employment and independence for singlewomen in Germany, 1400-1750” in Benett Judith M. and Froide Amy M., Singlewomen in the European past 1250-1800, Philadelphia: University Philadelphia Press, 192-213.



Premodern German cities commonly worried about their Frauenüberschuß, or surplus of women. As early as the 14th century from 15 to 25% of women were headed by singlewomen (p.192). Women married relatively late (25 to 28 in villages and 21 to 25 in cities; p.194).

Importantly the situation of never-married single women (as opposed to widows) varied considerably whether or not they children. Those with children were considerably poorer (p.195).

The rising tide of hatred

In the late 15th century Catholic humanist and later Protestant scholars reverted the medieval praise for the holy celibate to defend the values of marriage. Single men were targetted by moralists but they were too economically valuable to suffer significant legal persecution (p.196). Read the rest of this entry »

Epstein S. R. (2008) Craft guilds in the pre-modern economy

June 29, 2008

Epstein Stephen. R. (2008) “Craft guilds in the pre-modern economy: a discussion”, The Economic History Review, 61/1, 155-174.

This article of Larry Epstein is a discussion of Sheilagh Ogilvie’s article published by the review in 2004. In turn, Sheilagh Ogilve is offered to answer to professor Epstein’s comments. The result is a dynamic presentation of the current state of the research by two brilliant and passionate academics. Read the rest of this entry »

Stevens M. (2006) Women’s work in early 14th-century Wales

April 27, 2008

Stevens Matthew (2006) “Reassessing urban women’s work before the Black Death: a case study, 1300-49”, paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Economic History Society, Reading, 6 p.

This article is available on line.


This paper focuses on the borough of Ruthin is Wales, an active market town, during the first half of the 14th century to explore female involvement in the urban labour market. Two models have been proposed by historians:David Herlihy considers that by 1250 female participation to urban economic enterprises peaked and soon after declined until the Black Death (1349) when labour shortage reversed that trend. After the plague women’s role in the urban workforce declined steadily. Read the rest of this entry »

Britnell R. H. (2001) Specialization in England, 1100-1300

January 27, 2008

Britnell Richard H. (2001) “Specialization of work in England, 1100-1300”, Economic History Review, 54/1, 1-16.


The 12th and 13th centuries experienced growing population. The more people, the more likely it is that some will become specialized in an activity where they enjoy a comparative advantage (see Adam Smith). Persson has estimated that this led to a 0.1 to 0.25 yearly increase of productivity per caput in England over two centuries (i.e. between 22 and 62% for the whole period). But to what extend the period’s productivity gains are attributable to specialization? Read the rest of this entry »