Proto-Industrialization Thesis

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“Proto-industrialization” refers to the regional growth of market-oriented rural industry and contemporaneous agricultural growth in the 17th and 18th centuries, during the decades that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

The theories that accompany this concept have stimulated a considerable amount of research and debate in the last few years among European economic, social, family and demographic historians and continue to do so, as is evident from several recent books, theses, and issues of journals in these fields.

Indeed, proto-industrialization has never attained the status of being “the” solution to anything, since it has remained controversial.

Thirdly, out of a dozen other recent publications, Professor Stone singles out one particularly polemical and even sarcastic contribution by Professor Coleman to draw the conclusion that “Proto-industrialization, in short, seems to have been neither a sufficient, nor even a necessary, cause of industrial revolution.” In fact, proto-industrialization has never been presented as a “sufficient” cause of industrial revolution; even a superficial acquaintance with the economic history of the Industrial Revolution will make it at once clear that there were many regions of Europe whose handloom weaving and other rural part-time peasant industries disappeared without any factory industry to replace them locally.I have found, however, that such peakloads were increased by flax and potato cultivation in Flanders.See There was, moreover, an absence of the costs attendant to the migration of large numbers, of workers, the construction of housing for them and the provision of amenities (however minimal) which were later required for urban industrialization while capital losses were incurred in the countryside when farm houses were abandoned by migrants.; Wolfram Fischer and Peter Czada, “20th Century Changes in the Structure of German Industry,” a paper prepared for the 4th International Conference of Economic History, Bloomington, 1968 (mimeographed summary); Wolfram Fischer, “Die Rolle des Kleingewerbes im Wirtschaftlichen Wachstumprozesz in Deutschland, 1850–1914,” in Ltttge, From a Japanese farmer's long diary which has been exploited by Thomas C.I think he understates the importance of his own very considerable achievement, as well as the importance of the critical article by Coleman.Well before the beginning of machine industry, many regions of Europe became increasingly industrialized in the sense that a growing proportion of their labor potential was allocated to industry.Yet, that type of industry—the traditionally organized, principally rural handicrafts—barely fits the image one has of a modernizing economy.There is, however, cognitive value as well as didactic advantage in thinking of the growth of “pre-industrial industry” as part and parcel of the process of “industrialization” or, rather, as a first phase which preceded and prepared modern industrialization proper.Smith, we learn, of a similar abandonment of hemp production for home consumption in one village while it is increased in another province in the eighteenth century.The central importance of traditional industries in the process of industrialization has not escaped the attention of historians of Japan.To learn more or modify/prevent the use of cookies, see our Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy.from the March 29, 1984 issue To the Editors: Although Lawrence Stone [NYR, March 29] commands much authority in his own field of scholarship, it is unfortunate that he chose to pass a peremptory judgment on a subject and a field of research in which he can claim no particular competence, especially when the field is lively and controversial.

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