It is generally accepted by historians that there was a crisis' that blanketed all of Europe during the 17th century. A myriad of revolts, uprisings and economic contractions occurred almost simultaneously and had a profound impact on the socio-economics of the entire continent. The topic for discussion in this paper is the effects that this crisis' had on Europe and its developments. In particular, the focus will be on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, and his theory that the 17th century crisis was the catalyst for the transition from feudal society to capitalism in England and ultimately the genesis of the industrial revolution. Hobsbawm argues that it was the crisis of the 17th century, particularly the Puritan Revolution, which enabled capitalism to escape the confines of feudalism and flourish as the dominant ism' in England. While it is true that the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism did occur soon after the 17th century, it is not as clear as to what role the crisis of the 17th century had in their developments. Hobsbawm offers the 17th century crisis as the watershed responsible for the transformation, however, the evidence or lack thereof that he presents makes his hypothesis inconclusive if not unbelievable.
Capitalism during the 17th century is generally described as a parasite operating under the constraints of a feudal apparatus . Hobsbawm held that if "capitalism is to rise, feudal or agrarian society must be revolutionized" (pg14). In his paper The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century, he outlined the criteria necessary for capitalism to become dominate. First, there must be enough accumulated capital to fund capitalistic expansion. Second there must be increase in the division of labor so production can increase to capitalistic levels . A large quantity of wage earners who exchange their monies for goods and service at market is also required. And lastly the current... [continues]
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