Wednesday, June 18, 2008

the agrarian problem in the sixteenth century by R. H. Tawney

the agrarian problem in the sixteenth century by R. H. Tawney

This is the first book written by R. H. Tawney, the Author who wrote the Book "Religion and the rise of capitalism" that I discussed in post #7. Tawney's works focused mainly on England in the 16th ce and this book was his foundation for later ones. This book aims to expose a very important factor which contributed to the departure from medieval society to the entrance into a modern, capitalistic, individualistic world. This book is very detailed and tedious, but tawney also offers chapters which give overviews of the events so you can see the major impact these things had on 16th ce England and thusly the rest of the world.

The English agrarian revolution was not the only factor that contributed to the incredible economic and social readjustments that took place in 16th ce england, but it was very important.

The main reason for this "revolution," according to tawney and others, was the growth of the wool industry which had been emerging as Englands' top export since its rise in the 14th century.

at the time, as was most of europe, england was deeply entrenched in a feudal system in which feudal rulers fought for territory. Land to these rulers was simply a place where their peasants (who served as soldiers) could survive thru subsistence farming and paying taxes to the lord. Little "profit" was gained from land other than its benefit of keeping peasants working and producing taxes--usually in the form of food and soldiering. It was a harsh life, but most people were very equal (b/c most were peseants) and things simply did not change. Families stayed working on the same land under the same ruling family for centuries, as long as the ruling family wasn't vanquished or farming problems arose.

in the middle ages, trading centers were fairly insignificant. But the increase of trade of wool during the 16th (prolly brot on by newly discovered trade routes and increased wealth gained from the pillaging of the americas) meant that the traders, the capitalists, began to gain power--financial power.

concurrently, Henry the VII had seized control of the English crown thru battle in 1486. In order to maintian his position, tho, he had to ensure other lords wouldn't be able to seize it from him. He outlawed armies and divested many lords of their political powers. Also, he established laws that supported the wool industry as he knew that most lords did not have their hands in that area, so they lost financial power.

Capitalists were able then to have enough money to buy up land once used for farming and turn it into pastures for sheep grazing (a method called enclosing). They began evicting peasants who then emigrated to the cities where they would become employed by cloth manufacturers in the bourgeoning industries.

The woolen industry became so profitable, tho, that the influx of money made english currency depreciate. Lords had to start enclosing and participating in the wool industry just to keep income up. This resulted in more peasants being sent to the cities and greater stratification of income, more reliance on money as the source of power (as opposed to military strength), and therefore the rise of capitalism and its financiers, speculators and money markets.

No comments: