The Development of Capitalism in England, c. 1300–1860

  • Larry Patriquin


The main point made in this work is that English poor relief evolved side by side with the emergence of the world’s first capitalist society. In order for this argument, and my critique of other writers, to make sense, it is necessary to consider the development of capitalist class relations. This chapter will be a sweeping survey of more than 500 years of English history, one that is premised on an explicit rejection of a number of theoretical observations, especially those developed as part of world systems theory and the bourgeois paradigm. The focus will be more on the prehistory of capitalism, in particular the dissolution of the bond between individuals and the land which culminated in the vast majority of the population becoming labourers in an agrarian capitalist economy. In the early modern era, only England witnessed the complete subjection of commodified labour-power to capital in the wage relation, together with the virtual disappearance of a peasantry. Here alone, the direct producers lost non-market access to land, the principal means of production. After this review, the growth of the industrial sphere of capitalism, most prominent after 1760, will be detailed. Finally, a sketch of the English state will be provided. This state was formed in a society where the ‘economic’ and the ‘political’ were being split into separate spheres. A brief account of French absolutism will highlight the different ‘shape’ of English governance as well as contrast the ways in which these two states regulated their class relations.


Eighteenth Century Thirteenth Century English State Capitalist Social Relation Poor Relief 
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© Larry Patriquin 2007

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  • Larry Patriquin

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