The Tudor revolution

October 2020 Forums General discussion The Tudor revolution

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  • #207331
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Mid Tudor.wordpress.com

     

    “The rise of capitalism

     

    The enclosure movement in England is one example of agricultural capitalism. ‘Enclosure’ refers to the enclosing of the open fields and common lands by means of fences or hedges and converting them to grazing lands for sheep. This process was stimulated by the demand, at home and overseas, for English wool. Enclosure had disruptive social consequences; fewer men were required to take care of sheep and many peasants were forced off the land, often becoming vagabonds and sometimes criminals. The enclosers – the men who made their land into pastures for sheep – were capitalists. They employed labor, produced for an international market, and reaped the profits.
    The English textile industry shows the advent of capitalism in a different field. It manifested itself in the so-called putting-out system. Here the leading figure the capitalist was the merchant who bought the raw material, which he then distributed put out to the craftsmen who performed the various operations required to transform it into finished cloth, and then sold it on the market for a profit. This remained a rural industry, as work in the towns was controlled by guilds which attempted to maintain high prices for their members. By the 1550s raw wool had been replaced by woollen cloth as the chief export. All woollen cloth going to the Continent passed through Antwerp, and in England was handled by the Merchants Adventurers, a group of wealthy merchants from various cities, especially London. For the raw wool England still exported, the staple port was Calais still in English possession in 1500 and it was handled by the organization known as the Merchants of the Staple. As more products from distant places became available, manorial lords began to prefer monetary rents to services and payments in kind from their tenants. Hired labor was often more profitable than the old manorial services. As a result, serfdom declined very widely in Western Europe – the same areas in which economic development had progressed the most.
    Accompanying the changes in commerce, industry, and agriculture and to some extent making them possible was the continued growth of banking and finance.
    The greatest financial power of the sixteenth century was the house of Fugger in Augsburg. The founder of the family fortunes was Hans Fugger, a weaver who in about 1367 came to Augsburg from the countryside. In the city, he imported cotton and sold cloth. Soon he (and then his descendants) began to trade in other wares, including fruits, spices, and jewels, and moved into mining. From 1511 to 1527 the capital of the business rose tenfold. With his far-flung interests, it was necessary for him to be informed of events throughout Europe. He had agents in all the main business centres. They were indispensable to Charles V of Spain and Austria, who they had helped to power, and influenced the election of Popes.”
    My italics.
    • This topic was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by Thomas_More.
    #207336
    Wez
    Participant

    I use the word feudal in the Marxist sense, and not in the more restricted sense adopted by most academic historians to describe narrowly military and legal relations. By “feudalism” I mean a form of society in which agriculture is the basis of economy and in which political power is monopolised by a class of landowners. The mass of the population consists of dependent peasants subsisting on the produce of their family holdings. The landowners are maintained by the rent paid by the peasants, which might be in the form of food or labour, as in early days, or (by the sixteenth century) in money. In such a society there is room for small handicraft production, exchange of products, internal and overseas trade; but commerce and industry are subordinated to and plundered by the landowners and their State. Merchant capital can develop within feudalism without changing the mode of production; a challenge to the old ruling class and its state comes only with the development of the capitalist mode of production in industry and agriculture.

    Christopher Hill

    #207339
    LBird
    Participant

    Wez, have you read The Origin of Capitalism: a longer view by Ellen Meiksins Wood?

    This book is my preferred argument about the origins of capitalism in England. I think that she’d disagree with Hill’s:

    By “feudalism” I mean a form of society in which agriculture is the basis of economy and in which political power is monopolised by a class of landowners. The mass of the population consists of dependent peasants subsisting on the produce of their family holdings. The landowners are maintained by the rent paid by the peasants, which might be in the form of food or labour, as in early days, or (by the sixteenth century) in money.” [my bold]

    According to EMW, by the 16th century, England wasn’t ‘feudal’, but already capitalist. The capitalist landowners took rent off tenants, who weren’t ‘peasants’ (who controlled their land, as in France), but ‘farmers’ (who rented their land temporarily from its controllers).

    #207343
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Wez, I call that rural capitalism. The social relations were no longer feudal, and agriculture does not equal feudalism. The peasantry was being evicted in droves with the enclosure of land and their subsistence taken from them.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by Thomas_More.
    #207345
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    I’m with you on this, L. Bird.

    #207346
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    I think we can call the usurper landowners of post-1535 the rural bourgeoisie, from the dispossession of the monasteries and the buying up of former monastic and feudal land.

    The civil war is a struggle between the smaller bourgeoisie (urban but also yeomanry/gentry like Cromwell) allied to anti -royalist landowners against the mostly royalist heirs of the Tudor usurpation. These latter are rural bourgeoisie whose interests tie them to the king.

    #207348
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    When we discuss the enclosures just how much of the Commons was privatised by the nascent capitalists?

    #207353
    Wez
    Participant

    Nobody disputes the rise of capitalism in England. What I do dispute is that the revolution in 1642 was a struggle between sections of the capitalist class. Charles I and his supporters still represented the decaying conservative (feudal) landowners. To dispute this makes a nonsense of Marx’s theory of the class struggle and supports those (ideological historians) who will go to any lengths to disprove Marxism and with it the contemporary analysis of capitalism and the necessity of the working class to destroy it through revolution. I’ll look up the writing of Ellen Meiksins Wood – L Bird’s ‘preferred’ historian of the period. Presumably he prefers her because it fits what he wishes to believe? Strange choice of words. History is one of the ongoing ideological battlefields and only occasionally a search for ‘truth’ – that’s part of what makes it so interesting.

    #207354
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Charles’ supporters, and several of parliament’s too, were heirs of the Tudor usurpation, not of the former feudal nobility long gone.

    #207355
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Heirs of the Tudor usurpation still own much of the land today.

    #207356
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    It does not at all deny the materialist conception of history to say the revolution dated back to the Tudors.

    #207357
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Capitalism had been nascent before then, even.

    #207358
    Wez
    Participant

    Just had a brief look at some writing by Ellen Meiksins Wood – looks interesting. Her defense of the class struggle as central to historical development would seem to reflect my own (on a very brief reading). Does she consider the events of 1642 to be an internecine struggle between capitalists? There doesn’t appear to be an online version of the book L Bird recommends.

    #207359
    robbo203
    Participant

    When we discuss the enclosures just how much of the Commons was privatised by the nascent capitalists?

     

    The earliest enclosures in England go back as far as the 13th century and were related to such developments as the establishment of deerparks .   The pace of enclosures sharply increased during the Tudor period an in this instance the reason was more directly economic,. As has been pointed out the growth of the wool trade required the conversion of arable land into pasture. Not only did this require less labour but the still numerous class of independent peasants – the yeomanry –  faced with rising rents and  denied access to land, found themselves increasingly unable to support their way of life.

     

    This development was aided and abetted by another – the Reformation.  As Marx noted in <u>Capital</u>: The process of forcible expropriation of the people received in the 16th century a new and frightful impulse from the Reformation, and from the consequent colossal spoliation of the church property. The Catholic Church was, at the time of the Reformation, feudal proprietor of a great part of the English land. The suppression of the monasteries hurled their inmates into the proletariat. The estates of the church were to a large extent given away to rapacious royal favourites, or sold at a nominal price to speculating farmers and citizens, who drove out, en masse, the hereditary sub-tenants and threw their holdings into one (Karl Marx. <u>Capital</u>, Vol 1, Ch27).

     

    However, the enclosure movement really reached its  peak in the period from 1750 to 1860, which roughly coincides with the first great Industrial Revolution when literally thousands of Parliamentary Bills were passed giving effect to these enclosures.    As Irfan Habib notes:

     

    The drive for rent led to the eighteenth century enclosures, since large landowners found that capitalist farmers, using the methods of new husbandry, could pay them higher rents. The result was that by the early years of the nineteenth century, the bulk of the English peasants had been evicted through private enclosures (where the estates of the large landowners were fairly well consolidated) as well as through parliamentary enclosures (where in areas of mixed properties, the landowners needed acts of parliament to consolidate estates and terminate existing tenancies).  (Irfan Habib, Capitalism in History”, <u>Social Scientist</u>, Vol. 23, No. 7/9, Jul. – Sep., 1995, pp. 15-31)

     

    According to J. M. Neeson, enclosures occurring between 1750 and 1820 dispossessed former occupiers of some 30 percent of the total agricultural land of England – a significant figure given the already concentrated pattern of landownership (J. M. Neeson, 1996, <u>Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700-1820</u>,   York University, Toronto). This drastic incursion on the traditional way of life of rural folk was reinforced by a battery of other pieces of legislation such as the Game Laws which prohibited unauthorised hunting, making a rural way of life even less sustainable for many.

    #207360
    Wez
    Participant

    ‘It does not at all deny the materialist conception of history to say the revolution dated back to the Tudors.’

    If you substitute the word ‘development’ for ‘revolution’ in the above quote then everyone can agree. But what political revolution happened during the Tudor period?

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