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2 The Prime Mover of Economic and Social Development

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Chapter Summary

The focus of criticism against Robert Brenner from a number of leading historians of English medieval society has been on his assertion that class is the prime mover or fundamental determinant of economic and social development. John Hatcher and Mark Bailey argue that this introduction points to class not only as prime mover, but as an autonomous force driving history along without any significance given to the rises and falls in population and markets. Brenner asserted that class was a 'relatively autonomous' factor in historical causation, but he does not mean 'autonomous' in the sense that class has no connection to demographic and economic forces, a perspective which of course would be absurd. Hatcher and Bailey's key criticism of Brenner concerns the contrasting level of power English lordship enjoyed before and after the Black Death. Social-property relations should be treated as central to any explanation of economic and social change.

Keywords: Black Death; economic development; English medieval society; John Hatcher; Mark Bailey; prime mover in Brenner's work; Robert Brenner; social development



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