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  A term coined by the economic historian Franklin Mendels to describe \'the first phase\' which both \'preceded and prepared for\' the industrialization of the capitalist space-economy through \'the rapid growth of traditionally organised but market-oriented, principally rural industry\' (Mendels, 1972). The emergence of industries in the countryside was a commonplace of European historical geography, but since Mendels reopened the debate the process has been formalized in various ways which seek to contest conventional assumptions of a marked (\'revolutionary\') discontinuity between pre-industrial and industrial economies and to elucidate the regional specificity of the transformation. Two main models have been proposed, and although their substantive connections have stimulated a series of cross-fertilizations, they can nevertheless be located within two distinctive theoretical traditions:

(1) Ecological-functionalist models. These note that labour in an agrarian economy is intrinsically seasonal so that \'the adoption of industry by a growing number of peasants… meant that labour previously unemployed or underemployed during a part of the year [could be] put to work on a more continuous basis\' (Mendels, 1972). Such a logic would locate protoindustrialization in the arable regions, of course, whereas in her classic essay on \'Industries in the countryside\' Thirsk (1961) drew attention to the importance of pastoral regions. Her argument was based on daily rather than seasonal \'time-budgets\', however, and so there seems little reason to promote one logic over the other and to expect any simple relationship between protoindustrialization and the agrarian economy. Even so, many writers have accentuated the division of labour between the corn-growing arable regions and the cloth-making pastoral regions, and have explained its emergence in terms of \'comparative advantages\' (Jones, 1968). This was achieved through the coordinating functions performed by merchants in the towns, who thus became foci of capital accumulation.(2) Economic-structural models. These suggest that the pace and pattern of protoindustrialization was determined by the relations between two basic circuits: (a) Petty commodity production: at the micro-level, the artisan household strove to maintain a precarious balance between production and consumption and its labour discipline was thus oriented towards use-values. When prices fell, therefore, the system was peculiarly vulnerable because production was stepped up to boost the shortfall in receipts, thereby deepening and widening the recession; and(b) Mercantile capitalism: at the macro-level, the products of the domestic labour process were consigned to distant (often overseas) markets by merchants who were oriented towards exchange-values. When prices rose, therefore, the system was peculiarly vulnerable because artisan households could satisfy their immediate needs most easily and production slowed down — at the very moments at which opportunities from mercantile profits were at their greatest. The contradiction between these two was supposedly resolved by merchants seizing hold of production and taking the first steps towards the mechanization of the labour process and the formation of a factory system (see Kriedte et al., 1981, 1986).

One of the most serious weaknesses of both models is an unstated appeal to a transcendent logic of capitalism. Thus:

the major weakness of the comparative advantage model of regional specialization is its assumption of individual and social rationality in the various farming regions, and the implication that production will always adjust to comparative advantage in the long run. In reality, regional specialization was fundamentally affected by custom and tradition, embodied in the motivations and practices of economic actors, and in the variety of institutional environments. (Berg et al., 1983)The importance of \'custom\' and \'tradition\' is recognized by Medick and his collaborators, but usually confined to the artisan household where the pursuit of profit is hedged around by the precepts of a \'moral economy\' (see Thompson, 1974). The merchant is reduced to the status of rational \'economic man\', closed in the cloth-hall and the counting-house and the \'bearer\' of the immanent logic of capitalist rationality. There is little room for the complex social and political affiliations which, in some instances, prompted merchants to set themselves against the incursions of the factory system (Wilson, 1971; Du Plessis and Howell, 1982; Gregory, 1982).

Both models also find common ground in their emphasis on the demographic consequences of protoindustrialization, and in particular on the creation of a labour-surplus economy (Levine, 1987; see also agricultural involution). Here too, however, the complexity of the situation belies the simplicity of most of the explanations which have been offered: the ways in which a labour-surplus economy \'prepared for\' labour-saving technical change needs careful elucidation of the contingent features of the regional settings in which protoindustrialization took place (Hudson, 1981, 1983; see Berg, 1985). (See also industrial revolution.) (DG)

References Berg, M. 1985: The age of manufacturers: industry, innovation and work in Britain, 1700-1820. London: Fontana. Berg, M., Hudson, P. and Sonenscher, M. 1983: Manufacture in town and country before the factory. In M. Berg, P. Hudson and M. Sonenscher, eds, Manufacture in town and country before the factory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-32. Du Plessis, R. and Howell, M.C. 1982: Reconsidering the early modern urban economy: the cases of Leiden and Lille. Past and Present 94: 49-84. Gregory, D. 1982: Regional transformation and Industrial Revolution: a geography of the Yorkshire woollen industry. London: Macmillan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Hudson, P. 1981: Proto-industrialisation: the case of the West Riding textile industry. History Workshop Journal 12: 34-61. Hudson, P. 1983: From manor to mill: the West Riding in transition. In M. Berg, P. Hudson and M. Sonenscher, eds, Manufacture in town and country before the factory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 124-44. Jones, E.L. 1968: The agricultural origins of industry. Past and Present 40: 128-42. Kriedte, P., Medick, H. and Schlumbohm, J. 1981: Industrialization before industrialization: rural industry in the genesis of capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kriedte, P., Medick, H. and Schlumbohm, J. 1986: Protoindustrialization on test with the guild of historians: response to some critics. Economy and Society 15: 254-72. Levine, D. 1987: Reproducing families: the political economy of English population history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mendels, F.F. 1972: Proto-industrialization: the first phase of industrialization. Journal of Economic History 32: 241-61. Thirsk, J. 1961: Industries in the countryside. In F.J. Fisher, ed., Essays in the economic and social history of Tudor and Stuart England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 70-88. Thompson, E.P. 1974: Patrician society, plebeian culture. Journal of Social History 7: 382-405. Wilson, R.G. 1971: Gentlemen merchants: the merchant community in Leeds, 1700-1830. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Suggested Reading Houston, R. and Snell, K.D.M. 1984: Protoindustrialization? Cottage industry, social change and industrial revolution. History Journal 27: 473-92. Hudson (1981, 1983).



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