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 alternate, and a brand new interpretation of the overdue medieval economic climate. It therefore addresses present debates at the origins of contemporary Italian monetary dualism, and at the transition from feudalism to capitalism in early smooth Europe. Dr Epstein argues that monetary improvement in this interval was once formed mostly by means of neighborhood political and institutional buildings which regulated entry to markets. Following the Black loss of life, many institutional and social constraints on commercialization have been secure 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 economic system additionally improved and have become more and more export-oriented. even though just a small share of its output used to be shipped out of the country sooner than 1500. overdue medieval Sicily is therefore proven to were neither underdeveloped nor depending on international manufactures and exchange.

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A market is thus both an enabling and a constraining structure, and the balance between these opposite forces (which varies over time) will to a large extent shape a producer's economic strategies. Markets are thus complex entities whose emergence, reproduction and evolution cannot be taken for granted, but has to be explained. 67 65 66 67 T. H. Aston and C. H. E . , The Brenner debate. Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe. In turn, a social institution is 'a social organization which, through the operation of tradition, custom or legal constraint, tends to create durable and routinized patterns of behaviour'; see Hodgson, Economics and institutions, pp.

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. 55 On the other hand, Bresc's picture of the regional economy emerges much distorted. The west was the most underpopulated part of the island, far more oriented than the east to grain production for the domestic and international markets, and with poorly developed manufacturing.

In chapter 6, by contrast, I examine Sicily's foreign trade structure and test various underdevelopment theories (including that of territorial dualism) by assessing export volumes, the balance of trade, and the significance of foreign trade for regional development. Chapter 7 examines the relations between economic and socio-institutional change, looking in particular at the effects of shifts in income distribution on political and institutional power, and on the transition from a 'feudal' to a quasi-absolutist state.

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