An Island for Itself: Economic Development and Social Change by Stephan R. Epstein

By Stephan R. Epstein

This examine of overdue medieval Sicily develops a critique of theories of dependence via exchange, and a brand new interpretation of the overdue medieval economic system. It therefore addresses present debates at the origins of contemporary Italian fiscal dualism, and at the transition from feudalism to capitalism in early sleek Europe. Dr Epstein argues that financial improvement in this interval was once formed principally by way of local political and institutional buildings which regulated entry to markets. Following the Black demise, many institutional and social constraints on commercialization have been comfortable all through western Europe because of social clash and demographic switch. Peasants turned extra commercialized; monetary development happened via nearby integration and specialization. The Sicilian financial system additionally accelerated and have become more and more export-oriented. even supposing just a small share of its output was once shipped overseas ahead of 1500. overdue medieval Sicily is hence proven to were neither underdeveloped nor depending on international manufactures and alternate.

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By Stephan R. Epstein

This examine of overdue medieval Sicily develops a critique of theories of dependence via exchange, and a brand new interpretation of the overdue medieval economic system. It therefore addresses present debates at the origins of contemporary Italian fiscal dualism, and at the transition from feudalism to capitalism in early sleek Europe. Dr Epstein argues that financial improvement in this interval was once formed principally by way of local political and institutional buildings which regulated entry to markets. Following the Black demise, many institutional and social constraints on commercialization have been comfortable all through western Europe because of social clash and demographic switch. Peasants turned extra commercialized; monetary development happened via nearby integration and specialization. The Sicilian financial system additionally accelerated and have become more and more export-oriented. even supposing just a small share of its output was once shipped overseas ahead of 1500. overdue medieval Sicily is hence proven to were neither underdeveloped nor depending on international manufactures and alternate.

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Additional info for An Island for Itself: Economic Development and Social Change in Late Medieval Sicily (Past and Present Publications)

Sample text

Consequently, Bresc's reliance on this type of document has given him a view of the regional economy which is to a large 53 54 J. Bernard, 'Trade and finance in the Middle Ages 900-1500', p . 302. Further criticisms of these sources in P. Brezzi and E . L e e , Private acts of the late Middle Ages. Sources of social history, pp. xxi, xxiii, 101-2. 16 An island for itself degree restricted to western Sicily and Palermo. This is a matter of some importance. On the one hand, it raises serious doubts about the accuracy of the many statistical tables Bresc provides.

See, for example, G. M. Hodgson, Economics and institutions. A manifesto for a modern institutional economics. Historiography and sources 21 detail, and there is still a lack of local studies of late medieval agrarian or social history outside the largest cities (Palermo, Messina and Catania). The second reason is my concern with the interplay between institutional and political change, and the process and dynamics of economic growth in the long run. Taking late medieval Sicily as a test-case, I develop two related but distinct arguments.

In the first place, I argue that a major consequence for western Europe of the late medieval demographic and social crisis was that comparative advantages in available natural and human resources became increasingly effective, and that, possibly for the first time in the Middle Ages, regional commercial integration became a very powerful engine of economic growth. Secondly, I take the demographic growth rate as a rough index of economic expansion in the long run, on the assumption that any given society has a certain relationship between population and resources (mediated by its institutions), and that when resources increase, so too, after a certain time-lag, does population.

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