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The effects produced by economic changes upon social life in England in the fifteenth century

Abram, Annie (1909) The effects produced by economic changes upon social life in England in the fifteenth century. Other thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The fifteenth century was not marked by an epochmaking catastrophe, like the one which preceded it, or glorified by an outburst of literary activity, like that which followed; but it was none the less a most critical period in the history of the nation. Momentous events took place in the spheres of industry and commerce, which shaped its destiny in future days. England had hitherto depended largely upon her neighbours in these matters, but at this time she began to be conscious of her own powers, and entered upon the career, which she has never since quitted. Industrial development caused great changes in social life; it introduced new ideas, trained new faculties, and brought into prominence men who had been of little account in the past, and thereby it overthrew old modes of thought and old institutions. A century is, however, an arbitrary division of time, and the origin of some of the changes which swept over England in the fifteenth century may be found in the fourteenth. Other changes were not fully accomplished until long after the fifteenth century had reached its close, and they, in their turn, exercised a great influence upon conditions of life in the sixteenth century. Economic environment is only one of the many forces which mould social life ; religion, political institutions, and war are factors which must be taken into account, and they might have lessened the effects of the economic changes had not circumstances diminished their own strength. Religion was discredited by quarrels in the Church, and respect for the priesthood was decreased by its worldliness. Political institutions, however admirable, are of little practical use, unless they are well administered, but during the greater part of the century the Government was weak and inefficient. The authority of the Crown was lessened by a defective title and by wars of succession, and the nobles, who should have been its chief support, were absorbed in their private affairs, and cared little for the public good. War, it must be admitted, affected the characters of those engaged in it, and the deterioration of the baronage may be partially attributed to the demoralizing influence of the French War. But after the death of the Duke of Bedford the French War languished, the people took little part in it, and they had even less share in the Wars of the Roses. Morever, in so far as war reduced the numbers and lowered the prestige of the nobles, it acted in confunction with Economic forces, which deprived them of superiority by raising other classes to their level. Thus economic forces were not only able to hold Their own, but also materially to affect the development of other tendencies; and so religion and politics were tinged by a commercial spirit, and commercial intercourse formed the subject of much diplomacy. Consequently England made great strides as an industrial country; but her devotion to trade prevented her from paying much attention to other affairs, and she was hardly aware of the great awakening of thought which was going on in the South of Europe. A comparison of the progress of this country with that of other nations would be an interesting study, and though space does not permit it here, perhaps this slight attempt to describe life in England may furnish some data for this purpose. From several points of view, therefore, the Economic History of the fifteenth century has a special value for ourselves, for our own age must inevitably witness a like process of transition—new ideas are constantly presented to us, and new interests are being awakened from a long repose. Possibly, then, we can gain from the past some wisdom to guide our future policy.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Additional Information: © 1909 Annie Abram
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform

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