This book is about the nature of social structure and change in England during the five centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution. Drawing upon detailed studies of English parishes and a growing number of other intensive local studies, as well as diaries, legal treatises and other sources, the author examines the framework of change in England. He describes and analyses the general theories put forward by Macaulay, Marx, Weber and by more recent historians and sociologists concerning the transition from a peasant to a capitalist society. By drawing on parallel work by anthropologists and rural economists on the nature of peasant social structure, Dr Macfarlane is able to provide a set of indices by which to measure England during this period. His conclusions challenge current views on many major issues: for example, in relation to the nature of property, production, inheritance practices, household and kinship structure, and social and geographical mobility.

The author suggests that there has been a basic misinterpretation 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. Marx and Weber base their accounts of social change on the English experience: consequently their general views are also challenged. This book is therefore an explanaiton both of the nature of English society and of its crucial differences from other European nations. At the same time it is a persuasive argument that the major theories of social transition must be radically re-thought.



1 The nature of a peasant society

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

3 English economy and society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

4 Ownership in England from 1350 to 1750

5 Ownership in England from 1200 to 1349

6 English economy and society in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries

7 England in perspective

8 Some implications