The Industrial Revolution has traditionally been seen as a transformation in the technological basis of production and in the social arrangements surrounding it. On the other hand, the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries was originally conceived as a purely intellectual transition, a shift in mentalities or worldviews.
The first thing that stands out from this study is how passionate and volcanic was E. P. Thompson’s intellectual life as a historian, Marxist thinker, and informed campaigner. He was devoted to reason. Indeed, one of the left-wing journals with which he was involved was entitled The New Reasoner.
The social and economic landscape of the United States shifted significantly after the financial crash of 2008. The ensuing downturn led both businesses and consumers to face severe restrictions on their access to credit. The subprime mortgage crisis changed the nature of home ownership for many Americans. Growth rates and unemployment figures became the subjects of intense political debate.
Jonathan Sperber has so far been mainly known as a historian of 19th-century Germany, and of the Rhineland in particular.
Even after John Adams’s belated success on American television, and Alexander Hamilton’s recent conquest of Broadway, Federalists still seem to lag Jeffersonians in popular and scholarly interest.
It is hard to tell a non-deterministic story about the shift from early modern to modern economic practices: the terms we use (‘modernity’, ‘capitalism’, ‘economic’), the questions we ask, and the conclusions we draw are all inevitably weighed down by what we think or know about economic life today.