In the wake of Douglass North’s theories on institutions and economic growth, the last two decades have seen various kinds of medieval and early modern institutions increasingly regarded as factors aiding in, rather than obstructing, the transformative processes that eventually led to modern industrial capitalism in the 19th century.
This collection of essays forms an excellent Festschrift for Professor John Hatcher, whose eclectic range of research is displayed by the volume’s division into three parts: the first explores the medieval demographic system; the second charts the changing relationship between lords and peasants; and the third highlights the fortunes of trade and industry after the Black Death.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.
Jim Bolton is a much respected and well liked figure in London academic circles, who took up a post at Queen Mary College (as it was then called) in 1965 and has remained there ever since, despite his official retirement in 1994. He works on the medieval economy, and kept the subject alive during episodes when specialists in that subject were in short supply in the University of London.
In the 200 years before the invention of steam power and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, early modern London was a coal-fired metropolis. The dirty fuel was burnt in both the hearths of individual households and in the furnaces of breweries, bakers, and glassmakers.
It has become commonplace for historians to refer to 18th-century England’s ‘consumer revolution’. Empire, international trade and later industrialisation brought goods to English homes in ever greater numbers and variety. Debate continues, however, on the extent of participation in this revolution.