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The Origins of English Individualism: The Family Property and Social Transition



The Origins of English Individualism: The Family Property and Social Transition

Alan Macfarlane

ISBN: 978-0-631-19310-4 January 1991 Wiley-Blackwell 236 Pages


The Origins of English Individualism is about the nature of English society during the five centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, and the crucial differences between England and other European nations. Drawing upon detailed studies of English parishes and a growing number of other intensive local studies, as well as diaries, legal treatises and contemporary foreign sources, the author examines the framework of change in England. He suggests that there has been a basic misrepresentation of English history and that this has considerable implications both for our understanding of modern British and American society, and for current theories concerning the preconditions of industrialization.

Apologies and acknowledgements viii

Abbreviations and conventions x

List of abbreviated titles xi

Introduction 1

1 The nature of a peasant society 7

2 When England ceased to be a peasant society: Marx, Weber and the historians 34

3 English economy and society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 62

4 Ownership in England from 1350 to 1750 80

5 Ownership in England from 1200 to 1349 102

6 English economy and society in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries 131

7 England in perspective 165

8 Some implications 189

Postscript 204

List of manuscript sources 207

Index 210

"Historians are said to be moving back towards the idea of an enduring national identity. Alan Macfarlane wrote a paradigm-busting book back in the late 1970s, The Origins of English Individualism. That must have taken courage considering the sort of a decade it was ... A brilliant analysis."
The Independent