This article was published in ANTIPODE: A RADICAL JOURNAL OF GEOGRAPHY, 26,4,(1994):351-76.


J.M. BLAUT University of Illinois at Chicago


Robert Brenner is a Marxist, a follower of one tradition in Marxism that is as diffusionist, as Eurocentric, as most conservative positions. I cannot here offer an explanation for this curious phenomenon: a tradition within one of the most egalitarian of all socio-political doctrines yet a tradition which, nonetheless, believes in the historical superiority (or priority) of one community of humans, Europeans, over another, non-Europeans. Eurocentric Marxists are not racist, nor even prejudiced, although most of them believe that Europeans have always been the leaders in the forward march of history; that Europe is the fountainhead of civilization, the main source of innovative social change. For these scholars, the origins of capitalism are European. Capitalism's further development consisted of an internally generated process of improvement within its classic homeland, the European world. The impact of capitalism on the rest of the world has been, on balance, progressive. Colonialism and (today) neocolonialism are not significant for capitalism, are rather a marginal process, a temporary aberration or diversion or side-show, not a vital need of the system as a whole, which evolves in response to internal laws of motion.

This point of view is basic diffusionism: autonomous development at the center, diffusion of development to the periphery. It is also tunnel history: a form of tunnel-vision which tries to explain the rise of capitalism, and the rise of Europe, by looking only at prior European facts, looking, as it were, down the European tunnel of time, ignoring the history of the world outside of Europe both as cause of change within Europe and as the site of historically efficacious change in its own right (Blaut, 1989). The Euro-Marxists -- as I will call the socialists of this tradition -- accept this view, and so they are diffusionists. To this extent, they agree with their mainstream colleagues about the rise of Europe, of capitalism, of modernization, of industrialization, of democracy: basically all of it is European.

Euro-Marxism went into eclipse during the period when liberation movements were decolonizing most of the world. In this period, the idea that the colonial or Third World has been, and is, unimportant in social development was not popular among Marxists. After the end of the Vietnam War, however, this point of view became again popular, and indeed became the Marxism most widely professed in European and American universities. Today we witness the curious phenomenon that Euro-Marxists are quoted with approval by anti-Marxist scholars, who can use them to show that "real" Marxist scholarship supports some of the same doctrines, theoretical and practical, that conservatives do.

Robert Brenner is one of the most widely known of Euro-Marxist historians. His influence stems from the fact that he supplied a crucial piece of doctrine at a crucial time. Just after the end of the Vietnam War, radical thought was strongly oriented toward the Third World and its struggles, strongly influenced by Third-World theorists like Cabral, Fanon, Guevara, James, Mao, and Nkrumah, and thus very much attracted to theories of social development which tend to displace Europe from its pivotal position as the center of social causation and social progress, past and present. Euro-Marxism of course disputed this, and Euro-Marxists, while strong in their support of present-day liberation struggles, nonetheless insisted as they always had done that the struggles and changes taking place in the center of the system, the European world, are the true determinants of world historical changes; socialism will rise in the heartlands of advanced European capitalism, or perhaps everywhere all at once; but socialism will certainly not arrive first in the backward, laggard, late-maturing Third World.1

What was badly needed at this juncture was a strong Euro-Marxist theory of the original rise of capitalism, a theory demonstrating that capitalism and modernization originated in Europe, and evolved thereafter mainly in Europe and with little influence from the non-European world and colonialism. The crucial questions were matters of medieval and early-modern history, of proving that Europe was the source of innovation back in those times, and so the modern European world (joined lately by Japan) is still, by implication, the main source of innovation. Robert Brenner supplied such a theory in two long essays in 1976 and 1977, followed by another in 1982.2 These essays are among the most influential writings in contemporary Marxist historiography, influential among conservatives and Marxists alike.

The first of Brenner's long essays, "Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe," appeared in the history journal Past and Present in 1976. It was presented as a Marxist critique of conventional, conservative theories concerning the origins of capitalism in Europe (the rest of the world ignored), particularly those theories which focused on demography and on trade and urbanization as prime causes. The paper provoked a number of replies in the same journal, and Brenner issued a comment-in-reply in this journal in 1982 ("The Agrarian roots of European capitalism"). The whole exchange was then published as a volume, The Brenner Debate, in 1985.3 Other comments on Brenner's essays have appeared in various journals from time to time, and are still appearing.4

In 1977 Brenner published a very different sort of essay in New Left Review. In this paper, "The origins of capitalist development: A critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism," he restated his theory about the European origins of capitalism and then leaped forward into the 20th century to use this theory as a weapon against what he called "Third-Worldist" deviations in modern radical scholarship. The main targets of this attack were three well-known Neo-Marxists scholars, Andre Gunder Frank, Paul Sweezy, and Immanuel Wallerstein. These three were at the time perhaps the most widely-read English-language exponents of a theoretical perspective which emphasizes the crucial significance of colonialism and neocolonialism, and the struggle against it, in modern history and today; Frank's view, a form of "dependency theory," Wallerstein's view, called "world-systems theory," and Sweezy's rather more traditional anti-imperialist Marxism, all differed in some respects but held in common the proposition that events outside of Europe have been crucial in social development since the rise of capitalism, and the Third World is thus crucial in the struggle for socialism.

To answer this argument, Brenner said, in essence: The world outside of Europe has not been important for social development since the Middle Ages. It played no role in the original rise of capitalism. It was not prevented from developing by European imperialism. And too much enthusiasm for Third World struggles as against struggles within Europe (that is, by the European working class) will favor meaningless reformism in the Third World and will hinder, not help, the struggle for socialism in the world as a whole. Brenner now labelled his opponents as followers of Adam Smith rather than Marx, in their thinking about the forces of historical change, past and present. Frank, Sweezy, Wallerstein, and those who agree with them are "Neo-Smithians."

The New Left Review paper, unlike the essays in Past and Present, was a polemic. And an effective one. Euro-Marxists and Eurocentric conservatives give some credit to this essay for what they view as the demise of dependency theory and the decline of Third-World-oriented approaches to Marxism in the European academy. According to M. Cooper (1980: 81-82), Brenner showed that "Sweezy et al. have put forth nothing but a restatement of Adam Smith's mechanistic and deterministic analysis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism." According to John Browett (1980: 111), "the age of the radical-liberal dependency formulations has come to an end," thanks in part, at least, to Brenner's critique. According to Alan Macfarlane (1988: 191), Frank, Sweezy, and Wallerstein have been "demolished" by Brenner. And Brenner's critique also came to the rescue of standard economic development theory at a time when its diffusion-of-economic-modernization formula was being cast aside in favor of anti-colonial, anti-foreign, and socialist strategies, most of them justified by Marxism. The development theorists cited Brenner and announced: Marxism is on our side.5

In the present essay I am going to criticize Brenner's theory of the rise of capitalism in considerable detail, then very sketchily outline an alternative theory. This paper, like Brenner's New Left Review paper, is somewhat polemical. And it is unashamedly "Third-Worldist."

Brenner's Theory

Brenner's theory is an attempt to explain why capitalism arose and why economic modernization began - - all in medieval Europe. Nowhere in the three long essays does he so much as mention medieval Africa and Asia.6 So, before we consider the theory itself we should place it in its geographical perspective. Brenner is a pure tunnel-historian: the only facts worthy of mention in explaining the medieval rise of Europe and capitalism and the further progress of capitalism and economic development in the sixteenth century are European facts.

Brenner wants to show that the rise of capitalism came about as a result of social transformations in rural Europe in the late Middle Ages. The transformations he speaks of are changes in the class structure, and the dynamic process is class struggle. He begins with a description, not very controversial, of the social nature of feudal Europe during the High Middle Ages, the period of centuries (roughly the eleventh through the thirteenth) during which the feudal system in France and England reached a kind of zenith of development, while signs of relative prosperity -- or lack of crisis -- were evident in the countryside and while towns and commerce were expanding strongly. During this period, the basic class structure consisted of unfree peasants, typically serfs, and a ruling class of feudal lords who owned the land and held truly life and death control over the peasants. The serfs and other unfree or semi-free peasants performed three classes of service from which the ruling class obtained its income. They were required to give unpaid labor service on the lords' demesne, a large and organizationally unified farm. They were forced to give to the landlords a portion of their own production, either in the form of the agricultural products themselves or in the form of cash rent and fees, on small farms which they worked with family labor, the land being part of the landlord's estate. And they were forced to supply labor for other things such as some artisan work, domestic service, military service, and so on. Peasant farmers did not relinquish their labor time, their production, and indeed their lives without struggle, so there was constant struggle between the producing class and the ruling class, a struggle which took both mild forms, like holding back deliveries of surplus, and radical forms, like peasant revolts. Brenner wants to demonstrate that feudalism collapsed and transformed itself into capitalism as an eventual result of this kind of class struggle which pitted feudal landlords against peasants. He wants to demonstrate at the same time that other explanations for the transformation of feudalism into capitalism are not correct. Specifically, he attacks two other theories, the two which are most popular among economic historians, conservative and Marxist, who tend to claim that "economic" factors were the main cause of the decline of feudalism and rise of capitalism.

One of the two theories is an argument from demography to economics to society, and it rests in the Malthusian theory of population change, that is, the theory that (1) people cannot control their own reproductive behavior, and so they have as many children as they can; (2) this leads to overpopulation, that is, hunger and want; (3) an adjustment then takes place, with a good share of the population killed off, until again there is a rough balance between the number of people and the resources to feed them; at which point (4) the people again have too many babies and the cycle begins anew. Brenner shows how (some) conventional economic historians use Malthusian arguments to explain the decline of feudalism in roughly the following way. They claim that the period of prosperity during the High Middle Ages led to rapid population growth, and this continued until peasant populations had outstripped the resources available to feed them adequately: the available productive land, the known technology, etc. This produced a "Malthusian demographic crisis," early in the fourteenth century, which was then exacerbated by the Black Death, in about the middle of that century. So, after about 1350, population declined drastically. This produced a situation in which the landlords had too few peasants to provide them with adequate income, so they were forced to free the serfs and generally offer better living conditions to the peasants, who thereafter became free tenant farmers, paying their rent in cash. In a typical version of this theory, the end of serfdom in much of Western Europe, in the period 1350-1400, was really the beginning of the rise of capitalism, because the tenant farmers now, on the one hand, were participants in a commercial economy, selling their produce to obtain the money to pay rent in cash, and on the other hand, had larger farms (because the rural population was drastically lower) and so had greater resources for the accumulation of capital. Always, other factors were considered to have been at work, urbanization being one of them. But the "Malthusian crisis" of the fourteenth century is considered to have been a basic cause of social change.

Brenner's attack on this theory is surprisingly timid, given his agenda. He says only the following. Demographic factors are important. The Malthusian model is not entirely wrong.7 But demographic crisis does not explain the crisis of feudalism in Britain and France around 1350-1400. Why? Because the lords could have, somehow, continued to extract their income from the peasants without freeing the serfs. Brenner insists that the reason the serfs were freed was the success of their own class struggle during that period. Depopulation remains, nonetheless, as a factor. Brenner then adds, correctly, that feudalism as a system did not die when serfdom ended, so the demographic crisis therefore does not explain its demise. Class struggle does so.

Brenner's main attack is directed at another theory. This one explains the transition to capitalism in terms of an increase in commercialization and trade. Brenner's focus of attention on this theory very clearly ties in with his parallel agenda for the early-modern period: to show that the non-European world had no important role in the post-1492 rise of capitalism, by arguing that its role was limited to commerce and trade -- not production and class struggle -- and commerce and trade are not basic to capitalism either during the Middle Ages or thereafter. (I return to this point later.)

The trade-and-commercialization theory claims, broadly, that feudalism declined and capitalism rose because a change took place in the economy of Western Europe from perhaps the tenth century onward, a change in the direction of greater commercialization of the rural economy and greater trade, both local and long-distance. Feudalism in the early Middle Ages had displayed, in this view, a relative absence of commerce and trade, indeed a relatively subsistence-oriented economy. The feudal estates are seen in this theory as having been basically non-monetized, with the serfs providing, with their labor, nearly all of the lord's goods and services. However, as feudalism evolved, there came a gradual change, both on and off the lords' estates. Towns and cities grew, commodities moved along new trade routes and were exchanged in new markets, production on the lords' demesne farms re-oriented itself somewhat toward sale of the products raised, and peasants themselves began, more and more, to sell the commodities raised on their holdings, eventually reaching the level of commercialization where peasant rents came to be paid largely in cash. The increase in commercialization of agriculture and in trade was also accompanied by a growth in the urban economy. Overall, then, the change involved a gradual evolution toward a market economy.

The change occurred mainly for two reasons, in this theory. One reason was the reestablishment of trade connections between northern Europe and Mediterranean Europe, and between the latter and the Near East. The second, related reason, was the growth of towns. As feudalism evolved, in a relatively peaceful epoch compared to the antecedent one, new towns appeared in the countryside, old towns became reinvigorated, and there began a slow but steady rise in urbanization throughout Western Europe, which was also accompanied by the growth of trade, partly because the towns became nodes in regional trading networks, partly because the towns produced certain kinds of products which were exchanged for agricultural products. The growth of the market economy, in this theory, led very smoothly, naturally, to a decay of feudalism and rise of capitalism. Underlying the theory is a model of the human actor as somehow a natural capitalist: when confronted with a chance to "truck and barter," people will do so. The increased economic opportunities led very naturally to a sloughing off of the non-economic constraints associated with feudalism. Serfdom was replaced by the more natural, more highly evolved, system of cash rent and wage labor. Manorial production naturally changed from subsistence orientation to commercial orientation. Commercialization, in turn, naturally stimulated the development of urban production and of long-distance trade. Notice that the basic causality here is the Weberian idea of rationality: it is rational for humans -- or at any rate European humans -- to evolve an economy grounded in wage labor and profit. In fact, not only Weber's theory of European rationality but a host of other theories about Europe's supposed social precocity were inserted at the base of this economic theory of the decline of feudalism and rise of capitalism. For instance, it was claimed by some scholars that the supposedly natural development of democracy in the Middle Ages produced, naturally, a political atmosphere which permitted free markets to develop, and with them free labor and free capital. In a word, the standard economic theory of the transformation of feudalism into capitalism, the theory stressing commercialization and trade, is usually a cover for some more basic theory about the inherent rationality and precocity and progressiveness of Europeans. (See Baechler, 1988; Hall, 1985; Jones, 1981; Mann, 1986.)

Brenner puts forward five principal arguments against the trade-based theory of the origins of capitalism. First, he questions why feudal people naturally strive to change from a non-commercial, feudal economy to one based on "truck and barter," and then somehow naturally build capitalism out of a commercialized, trade-oriented, post-feudal rural economy. Says Brenner: this implies that people are, somehow, naturally prone toward capitalism, and such an assumption is untenable (Brenner, 1985a: 17; 1977: 28-29, 40, 42, 45-49, 61, 83). (We will see, however, that Brenner himself appeals to a not entirely dissimilar model of human nature in his own theory of the transformation to capitalism.)

The second argument is a faulty one. Brenner asserts that trade during the Middle Ages was a very marginal activity (Brenner 1985a: 25; 1985b: 241, 274; Brenner, 1977: 47). It consisted, he claims, of insignificant luxury items, for the very small ruling-class population. Quantitatively it could not have been significant enough to have had an impact on rural society. Lords would not, for instance, require very large receipts of cash rent if the only need for cash was to purchase small amounts of luxuries. He argues, in addition, that the towns were in essence parasitic on the countryside, and were not true centers for the production of commodities not produced in the rural areas. Rural-urban trade was not quantitatively important nor did it imply the existence of an important division of labor between urban and rural production systems (Brenner, 1985a: 38-39; 1977: 47). Overall, then, trade was not important enough during the Middle Ages to act as a solvent of feudal social relationships and to generate a true market economy and, beyond that, capitalism.

Only one part of this argument is factually correct. As Brenner notes, urbanization during the Middle Ages did not reach the level where it could significantly change rural feudal society. For instance, the old argument that the towns represented a haven for escaped serfs and therefore the growth of towns undermined serfdom by providing a place to which serfs might flee, is wrong because, prior to the end of serfdom in Western Europe, towns were too tiny to have played this role to any significant extent (idem). The same objections apply to various theories about the political and social role of towns. For instance, as Brenner notes, they were not, somehow, little enclaves of freedom, of democracy, in the feudal landscape: their social structures were rather rigid, and in any case they were not, in general, hospitable to incoming strangers, like escaped serfs (idem).

But Brenner neglects one very important thing about the towns of Western Europe. Small though they were throughout the Middle Ages, they were nonetheless little centers of a kind of primitive or incipient capitalism, centers in which some production was organized for profit and some workers were paid wages. Towns, also, were receptacles for the diffusion into Europe of technology, industries, business institutions, and like innovations being developed outside of Europe: they were connected as nodes in a hemispheric trade network. So the towns eventually became centers of infection, so to speak, for expanding capitalism, after the original and crucial causes for the rise of capitalism had taken effect, in a process (and theory) which I have described elsewhere (Blaut, 1976; 1989; 1992; 1993) and will summarize later in this essay -- a process involving the in-flowing of wealth and the expansion of essentially capitalist enterprise and trade after 1492, after the beginning of colonialism; and the infectiousness of the towns in that later period was not diminished by their relatively small size at the beginning of the period. Brenner rejects this argument, because, for him, both the destruction of feudalism and the rise of capitalism took place not in towns but in the countryside: the first true capitalism, he believes, was an agrarian capitalism.

Was trade really as insignificant as Brenner says it was? Even before the decline of serfdom, the period when peasants had relatively little need for cash, there was vigorous trade in many bulk commodities which were used throughout the peasant economy: salt, iron, utensils, seed, feed, livestock, and many other commodities were traded between villages, and between town and village, and, via the traveling trader and the periodic market, over longer distances. There seems to have been considerable exchange of commodities within the village; presumably some services were purchased with cash. There was demand for commodities from the urban population, the clergy, and other communities and groups. So commerce in this period was hardly insignificant. But after the fourteenth-century crisis and the ensuing decline of serfdom the commercial economy expanded even more, as peasant rents came to be paid in cash, as urbanization increased (a bit), and so on. So Brenner is quite wrong to dismiss medieval trade as insignificant, a matter of trivial luxuries. To all of this must be added the fact that trade was even more lively in Mediterranean Europe, a region which Brenner basically ignores.8

Brenner asserts next that the growth of trade should not produce a crisis leading to the dissolution of feudalism. The lords would not transform themselves into rural capitalists simply because of the growing opportunities to sell the products from their estates and the growing opportunities to purchase trade items. Nor would they have an incentive to free the serfs simply because commerce was expanding. Brenner is doubtless right in saying that the lords' social status was inseparable from the kinds of services provided them by serfs and tenants, and the growth in commercial opportunities would not lead them to alter their values or their way of life. On the other hand, if we introduce into the picture the crisis which took place in the fourteenth century, a crisis in which rural population and the income of the landlord class demonstrably declined, then Brenner's argument loses force. Lords could not obtain enough labor to maintain their own income level and life style without rather serious adjustment. Given that commerce and trade had expanded, it seems likely that landlords were stimulated (or forced) to increase production for sale, to reduce costs and regularize output, as a means of maintaining their social system. Moreover, the evidence is compelling that the fourteenth-century crisis led to a transformation of social relations in the countryside, with serfdom giving way, broadly, to tenant farming in which rent was demanded in cash. The 14th-century crisis led to the fall of serfdom -- not instantaneously, not everywhere, and not entirely -- by increasing the bargaining (or class) power of peasants in a situation where peasant labor was scarce. We are talking about the relative power of two classes, lords and peasants, and the crisis gave the working class greater power to resist the lords' demands that they provide unpaid labor, supply products grown on their holdings, and the like. Peasants gained relative to lords, and this forced the lords to commute labor services and accept payment of rent in cash. But cash rent had meaning only because the overall economy was now commercialized: there was a market for the peasants' produce, and there was a market in which lords could buy things with the cash paid to them as rent. In short, the commercialization of the medieval economy did have much to do with the decline of serfdom and indeed of feudalism.

Brenner reinforces his argument with what he calls, rather ingenuously, "comparative analysis" -- ingenuously because all of the places compared with one another lie within Northern Europe, and true comparison would have to look at all possible cases of a given type and so carry one over to Mediterranean Europe, to Asia and Africa, and Brenner does not do this (see Brenner, 1985a: 21, 30; 1985b: 220, 221, 260). He points out, correctly, that serfdom actually increased in Eastern Europe during the period when trade and commerce were expanding throughout Europe, that is, the 16th and 17th centuries. He considers this fact to be proof positive that there is no definite connection between the decline of serfdom and the rise of trade: serfdom can decline correlatively with the rise of trade in one region (Western Europe) while it increases with the rise of trade in another region (Eastern Europe). This argument is easily answered.

The decline of serfdom took place in Western Europe during (mainly) the 14th century; to compare this with the rise of serfdom two to three hundred years later in a very different region is unfair. In Western Europe the rise of commerce took place gradually over the centuries in a region already well-developed agriculturally and with a dense population. In Eastern Europe, the rise of serfdom took place in a very different social and environmental setting. Population was much less dense and expansion of agriculture to some extent involved a spatial enlargement of the agricultural region. When the increased demand for grains in the 16th and 17th centuries stimulated agriculture in this region, landlords were confronted with serious labor shortage and found it possible and profitable to intensify the labor services on peasants, enserfing some of them and deepening the burden of serfdom for others. So Brenner cannot properly "compare" these two regions, different in character and at very different times, and claim then that he has proven that the decline of serfdom has nothing to do with the rise of commerce (see Wunder, 1985; Le Roy Ladurie, 1985; Dodgshon, 1987). Indeed, the rise of commerce in the Middle Ages is qualitatively a different thing from the rise of commerce in the early modern period, after the discovery of America and the explosive expansion of Europe's economy which took place in consequence of that event.

How, then, does Brenner explain the transformation -- the fall of feudalism and the rise of capitalism? We can begin by situating Brenner's theory in its geographical and historical perspective.

First: Geography. For Brenner, the world outside of Europe was not at all involved in the transformation. Indeed, he derides the idea that we have to look at the non-European world, and attacks writers like Wallerstein and Frank who suggest that we should do so (Brenner, 1977, pp. 27-33, 38-41, 53-63, 67-68, 82-92). Brenner says nothing whatever about the nature of medieval societies in Africa and Asia. Clearly, he does not consider it necessary even to raise the matter of comparing European and extra-European societies in order to find out why the one developed capitalism and the other did not. He does not mention influences on Europe from Africa and Asia. He ignores the late-medieval trade between Europe and these two continents. Thus: the rise of capitalism is a strictly European fact.

It is a Northwest European fact. The transformation did not involve Southern or Eastern Europe: only the West. Southern Europe is basically not discussed, Eastern Europe serves only (as we saw) for "comparison" with the West. But within northwestern Europe, only England is really central to the transformation. France is discussed in great detail, but Brenner does so (as we will notice) in order to show (another "comparison") why the transformation did take place in England and did not take place in France. So the decline of feudalism and rise of capitalism is an English fact.

There is one further geographical restriction. Towns were not involved in an important way. Brenner believes (contra Sweezy and most historians) that the internal development of European urban life was not important in the rise of capitalism, nor was the role of towns important as havens for escaped serfs, nor was rural-urban trade of significance. The rise of capitalism therefore is a rural English fact.

So Brenner's theory has this simple geography: There is steady distance-decay of interest and relevance as we enlarge the scale, from rural England to England as a whole, to Western Europe as a whole, to Europe as a whole, to the world as a whole. The place where feudalism died and capitalism was born was a very small region indeed: rural England.

If the geography of Brenner's theory is restricted and very definite, its history is both broad and indefinite. The transformation, for Brenner, occurred over four centuries. Many would agree that the process was a long and slow transition from 14th-century feudalism to 18th-century capitalism. Brenner does not argue this way, however. The significant event was the arrival of capitalist agriculture in the English countryside during a rather brief, almost revolutionary, epoch. But he telescopes a lot of history into this brief period, throwing into it events from the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, treating some of these events as though they were coterminous; even assigning 17th-century causes to earlier effects (Brenner, 1985a: 35, 46-54; 1985b: 215, 252, 274, 276, 282, 294-297, 200-206, 309-311, 314-316).

We come, then, to the theory itself. Class struggle explains why feudalism collapsed and capitalism rose and triumphed. Throughout the Middle Ages, throughout Western Europe, the lords and the peasants were engaged in ceaseless struggle over control of the means of production and surplus labor and product. As a mechanism for extracting the surplus from the peasants, the landlords established and enforced legal restrictions on the peasants, holding them in serfdom. Although some peasants were legally free, they were subject to some of the legal restraints which were inflicted on serfs, so that, overall, the medieval peasants were unfree as a class. Although other classes existed in this feudal society, the basic contending classes were landlords and peasants, and in particular lords and serfs. Brenner argues that class struggle in feudalism eventually produced an insurmountable crisis, and feudalism gave way to a new and higher mode of production, capitalism. But Marxists are by no means agreed as to when that crisis occurred and how and why the transformation took place. A major difficulty for Marxists is posed by the fact that the very serious crisis of the 14th century effectively led to the end of classical serfdom (quickly in some areas, slowly in others), but not to the end of feudalism as a general system: the lords remained the ruling class, the peasants were still to some extent under their legal control (for instance, they could not, typically, leave the manor without the lord's permission), and the class struggle between peasants and landlords continued for some time thereafter. Feudalism as a legal and political system ended, formally (in a sense symbolically), in 1688 in Britain, and even later in most other parts of Western Europe. Industrial capitalism did not appear, really, until late in the 18th century. Even rural capitalism did not become significant until after 1600. The question, then, is: what happened after the 14th-century crisis? Why did feudalism still survive? Did it then gradually crumble, without any further crisis, or simply transform itself smoothly, gradually, into capitalism? If the fourteenth-century crisis did not kill feudalism, what did?

Brenner confuses the various phases of the process and so mixes together the events of several centuries, positing that there was a quick revolutionary transformation that occurred roughly in the late 15th century, and describing this revolutionary transformation in such a way that it contains processes that we know were characteristic not of the 15th century but of the 14th, 16th, and 17th.9 It may seem odd that a historian would make such errors, and to understand it we must see one additional attribute of Brenner's theory. It is not entirely an empirical theory; it contains a great deal of mysticism.

Brenner, like some other Marxists, holds to a very mystical conception of capitalism. Capitalism is conceived to be an entity, an essential thing. When it arrives, it does so complete and entire, as though it were a god descending from Olympus to govern human affairs. So one does not really think of a "transition" to capitalism: there comes a kind of mystical moment when it arrives and takes over. The capitalism that (according to Brenner) appeared in rural England in the late 15th century is the same essential capitalism that governs England today (Brenner 1985b: 234-236, 275, 293, 295-301; Brenner, 1977: 30-32, 61, 67-68, 78). Its essence is the same. Over time, it develops in various ways -- for instance equipping itself with manufacturing industry -- but it remains the same entity. And it retains the same essential properties, some of which are quite mystical. Capitalism brings with it instantaneous rationality. Suddenly technological inventiveness and innovativeness appear; they were not really present during the feudal age, says Brenner (1985a: 29, 31, 33, 50, 59, 63n; 1985b, 214, 233-236, 290, 303, 206-316; Brenner, 1977: 26, 42-43; 46; 68). Suddenly working people are "free," that is, they begin to make economically rational decisions in a free labor market. Suddenly society (English society) acquires an "economy" (Brenner, 1985b: 227, 228n, 233; 1977: 30, 37). And more. This mystical notion of capitalism substitutes for an empirical theory about the transition: The merely empirical facts may suggest a long, slow, transition, with many complex and contradictory happenings, including some regressions toward classic feudalism -- no matter. At one mystical historical moment (or year, or handful of decades) capitalism appears and transforms rural England.

Here, now, is the core of Brenner's theory. In the 14th century, the English peasants basically won their freedom. The elimination of serfdom set in motion several processes which then swept away feudalism. Since peasants were now free, they would tend to rise or fall in economic status, depending on such things as the size of their holdings. This was a process of differentiation of the peasantry into status groups which soon became classes. The less successful peasants remained as subsistence farmers or lost their holdings and became landless laborers. The more successful farmers now negotiated with the landlords/lords to acquire leases on fairly large holdings, holdings now large enough so that, with hired labor, they could produce a profit and favor the accumulation of capital (Brenner, 1985a: 30-63; 1985b: 274-327). But the key factors in the process were these: First, the elimination of serfdom freed the minds of the peasants so that they could begin, rationally, to think up ways to improve agricultural production. Second: the new freedom from serfdom meant that agricultural laborers would move around in a labor market, taking work where the compensation was highest (Brenner, 1985a: 33).

These were the two essential features of capitalism: capitalist rationality leading to technological innovation; free wage labor, leading to competition among employers and thus to efforts to reduce the cost and raise the efficiency of labor. The larger peasants now became small businessmen, leasing land from the lords, hiring labor, competing with one another, and accumulating capital or -- if unsuccessful -- going out of business. In short, the standard menu of attributes for a modern small business enterprise.

There are a number of very large problems with this theory. The largest is a matter of timing. Serfdom basically ended in the 14th century, but capitalist agriculture -- the model we have just looked at -- was almost unknown prior to about 1520 and did not really become widespread for the next hundred years or more. Indeed, when Brenner goes into detail about the supposed attributes of capitalist agriculture in rural England, he tends, more often than not, to be describing the kinds of farms which were characteristic of the 18th century -- some 400 years after the collapse of serfdom. The error is most glaring when he waxes enthusiastic about the new "rationality" and the technological innovations which it produced. He speaks of "revolutionary innovations," but there were none such -- until much later.10 Brenner bases his argument here mainly on one authority (Kerridge); many others deny that there was such a revolution, at least in matters of agricultural technique, some maintaining that the real revolutionary epoch was the 18th century, or maintaining even that nothing truly revolutionary occurred in the English rural landscape before the industrial revolution.11

Let us unpack this problem into smaller and more manageable ones. Firstly, Kerridge's 16th-century agricultural revolution is still, as to timing, a century too late to satisfy Brenner's theory: serfdom gave way to "free" tenantry before the end of the 14th century. Secondly, Brenner argues that technological advances, after the freeing of the peasants, led to the enlargement of holdings and the creation of capitalist farms. But the technological advances which had this effect occurred a couple of centuries later: effect therefore precedes cause. The two revolutionary technological advances actually discussed by Brenner were not at all revolutionary. He cites an innovation in irrigation technology (floating of water meadows), but this was neither very innovative -- irrigation being an old art -- nor very important.12 And he cites a new system of rotation involving the alternating of improved pasture with cropland ("convertible husbandry"), but this did not intensify production (some other, older, rotations were very much more intensive) although it was a solid advance in pasture technology.13 So the entire argument about a sort of instantaneous appearance of "rationality," and then, immediately and directly, the beginnings of revolutionary technological advance, is simply empty. Brenner has in mind the marvelously rapid technological advance which accompanied capitalism during and after the industrial revolution, the process which Marx identified as a central feature of modern capitalism, new technology being a crucial strategy for firms in their competition with other firms; Brenner (quoting Marx) insists that the "rational" process of constantly revolutionizing technology is an essential attribute of all capitalism, then casts all of this back into a time when, in fact, constant revolutionary technological advance just did not take place. The mysticism of his concept of capitalism overrides the facts, and the 18th century is pushed back into the 15th.

Next there is a very serious difficulty with Brenner's conception of medieval technology. He holds a very contradictory image of the peasantry. He thinks that medieval peasants were not at all innovative as to technology, but that some peasants became marvelously innovative as soon as they were touched by the magic wand of capitalism. The reasoning here is that peasants are conservative and unchanging, "traditional," so long as they own the means of production, the land, and gain their livelihood from it (Brenner, 1985a: 59, 63n; 1985b: 234-236, 306, 311, 313,; 1977: 36, 43). If they are serfs, says Brenner, they have no incentive whatsoever to think up and introduce technological advances since the lords will reap the benefit. But they become innovative, progressive, etc., when land is a commodity and they must produce for sale in order to be able to pay the rent on their land. Unaccountably, Brenner seems to think that serfs owned the means of production (and in various parts of his argument he describes peasants, medieval and modern, as though they were owners of land whereas in fact most were not proprietors at any time in this period, in England or elsewhere in northwestern Europe).14 This error aside, the fact is that peasants were not hidebound and traditional. We can infer this from modern research which disproves the contemptuous attitude which European "modernization" theorists hold about peasants and their supposed "irrationality," "traditionalism," and the like --an attitude which Brenner evidently shares. We know this also from the painstaking research which has uncovered a broad array of peasant-generated technological advances in the Middle Ages.

Brenner makes a somewhat similar, and equally fallacious, argument about the feudal landlords who, he says, have no incentive to innovate technologically because they are, in essence, satisfied with their social situation (Brenner, 1985a: 31, 43-44). Brenner makes two errors here. Firstly, there were periodic crises throughout the Middle Ages, and landlords were very frequently faced with a lack of delivery of surplus and a need to increase it. Brenner imagines that the standard way to do so was to squeeze the peasantry ever more tightly, rather than to attempt to improve production methods, on the demesne farm or on the peasant farms (1985b: 234-235 and elsewhere). Granted that feudal lords were expert squeezers, nonetheless many of the estates, lay and ecclesiastical, made serious and important efforts to improve agricultural methods and introduce better technology. Brenner's next error is to assume that squeezing had no limit: nowhere does he notice that medieval serfs were suffering exploitation to and sometimes beyond the subsistence line. Another fact about the squeezing process which Brenner ignores: when peasants are forced to increase the delivery of surplus produce, they are under intense pressure to increase their levels of production, hence are likely to (and often do) innovate, technologically and in other ways, in order to increase production: in other words, it is simply untrue that serfs (and also landlords) have no incentive to innovate. Secondly, Brenner dismisses out-of-hand one of the basic arguments of Marxist theory: in all class societies, the ruling class is always seeking to increase its wealth; it is never satisfied and the system is never in equilibrium. Brenner conceives feudal society as having been governed by completely different rules than those which apply to capitalist society. It did not have an "economy." It had precious little exploitation. And the feudal ruling class supposedly was satisfied with a certain level of income from its peasantry, or enough so to be willing merely to squeeze the peasants as far as possible and not to attempt to increase total production. Overall, says Brenner (1985a: 41), this society was "stagnant."

We come now to what is probably Brenner's strangest proposition. His theory is self-consciously Marxist, and self-consciously grounded in class struggle. In Marxist theory, class struggle tends to produce advances in cultural evolution because, putting the matter simply, the exploiters lose. For Brenner, the ruling class was defeated to the extent that peasants secured their freedom from serfdom. But this did not bring about the collapse of feudalism as a mode of production. That occurred (in England) roughly one hundred years later, according to Brenner, and it occurred because the ruling class won the class struggle. Brenner argues that, if the peasants had really won in the 14th century, the result would have been, not rural capitalism, but a society of freeholding peasant proprietors. Because peasant proprietors (in Brenner's thinking) are not innovative, are satisfied to have a bucolic existence on their subsistence holdings, this form of society would not have gone through a transformation to capitalism. Brenner now points to France and makes one of his limited (and invalid) comparisons. In France, he says (inaccurately), the peasants won definitively, so freeholding peasants really came to dominate the society, established cozy links with the crown against the landlords, and as a result managed to maintain their position.15 This explains why capitalism did not arise in France. In England, on the other hand, the peasants lost. They secured the ending of serfdom but they did not succeed in winning full proprietorship of their land: they remained tenants of the same landlords (Brenner, 1985a: 48-49, 61; 1985b: 307-311). As a result, says Brenner, there appeared a sub-class of peasants who parlayed tenancy into capitalist agriculture. They negotiated rents with the landlords, rented larger and larger holdings, hired labor, and so became capitalist farmers, paying a portion of their profits to the landlords just as modern small businesses pay rent to the owners of their factories and offices. For Brenner, this was the real cookpot of capitalism.16 So the fact that English peasants lost their class struggle is the crucial explanation for the ending of feudalism and the rising of capitalism. This turns the class-struggle theory on its head.

Neo-Weberian Euro-Marxism

Brenner wants to label Frank, Wallerstein, and company "Neo-Smithians" because, in essence, they pay so much attention to commerce, to trade, to urbanization. He never quite denies them the status of "Marxist," but this is implicit in his argument, as commentators have pointed out (e.g., Macfarlane, 1988:191; Taylor, 1989:342-343). Of course, Marx did not neglect commerce, trade, and urbanization. But Marx gave ultimate causal authority to class struggle. Brenner claims to do so, too. For him, Sweezy, Frank, and Wallerstein abandon class struggle in favor of commerce and the rest. This is quite unfair to Sweezy, whose eye is on urban class struggle, and also to Frank and Wallerstein, who simply notice that there was class struggle in Latin America, Africa, and Asia as well as Europe. But this is beside my present point. Brenner's theory actually gives a rather minor role to class struggle.

Like everyone else who writes about the medieval origins of capitalism, Brenner reports the class struggle between serfs and lords and registers the fact that a change in class-structure was underway, but he hardly goes farther. The essence of his theory is the argument that a commerce-minded, accumulating class of tenant farmers rose in England, in the midst of all such changes. These yeoman-tenants, he says, were a kind of class product of prior class struggle, along with class-differentiation. But that prior class struggle -- mainly between serfs and landowners -- took place in many places, not only rural England. Brenner's key proposition is that English tenant farmers developed into capitalist farmers -- the first capitalists -- not because they struggled with anybody, but because they had not been able to gain ownership of the land. This, for Brenner, implies that they did not fall prey to the non-innovative conservatism which (he thinks) afflicts landowning peasants. Since they did not own the land and were not serfs, they were "free" to accumulate. (Landlords were, in this conception, "unfree." See Hoyle, 1990, on accumulation by landlords.) All of this establishes the possibility, feasibility, desirability of capitalist activity "at the highest level of technology" (Brenner, 1977:32). And Brenner now turns to a very unmarxian theory to explain -- really explain -- the rise of capitalism. This is the idea of technological rationality, which, for Brenner, emerges in this one unique class and place (here ignoring the existence of cash-tenancy and agricultural wage-labor in other regions and continents).

This view is less Marxist than Weberian, and Brenner's essential theory is really closer to Max Weber's than it is to Marx's. Brenner differs from Weber in believing that this rationality is not a permanent attribute of European people but rather it descended on Europe all at once (so to speak), arrived rather suddenly, fully formed, at the magical moment when the class of (commerce-minded) English yeoman-tenant-farmers began to accumulate. Yet this is not so far from Weber, who also fixates on the importance of capitalist rationality and its supposed burgeoning at a magical moment (in the Reformation). So long as people are being called names, let's call Brenner a "Neo-Weberian Euro-Marxist." Just in fun.

Other Views

Name-calling is not entirely irrelevant to Brenner's case, since, if "Third-Worldists" are banished to "Neo-Smithian" territory, then the "Marxist" terrain would seem to have been secured for Brenner. But it has not been. For one thing, Marxists have been debating for a long time, and still are debating, the question whether urban or rural forces were most crucial in bringing about the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Brenner does not try to mislead anyone about the fact that he is continuing the famous Dobb-Sweezy debate (Hilton, 1976), advancing a basically (or neo-) Dobbsian case against Sweezyism, and against all the rest of the Marxists who think that the rise of urban processes was as consequential, or more so, than the contemporary decay of feudalism in the countryside. But many readers of Brenner have plain forgotten the older debates (which go back to Marx's own uncertainty on this matter) and have decided that, to support Brenner's conception of the origins of capitalism, is to defend all of Marxism against "Third-Worldism."

The debate is partly a matter of place. Is Brenner right to locate the causation in the lands worked by tenant-farmers, not landlords (Hoyle, 1990)? In rural England, not in urban England? In England and not also in France (Bois, 1985)? In Western Europe but not also eastern Europe (Wunder, 1985; Wallerstein, 1980)? Not also southern Europe (Torras, 1980)? Not also Asia (Abu-Lughod, 1989)? Not also sub-Saharan Africa?

All of the important attributes of late-medieval English rural society, and its class struggles, were to be found in the same period in many parts of southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. This includes untied peasantry, cash tenancy, rural wage-labor, large-scale production for sale, peasant struggle, and much more -- not excluding a certain pace of agricultural innovation. The evidence demonstrating all of this is fairly abundant for the Mediterranean and Asia, and the African evidence is mounting. (For detailed arguments and citations, see Blaut, 1976; 1987; 1989; 1993). Likewise, it is clear that urban and peri-urban processes, including large-scale material production for commerce, were no less advanced in southern Europe and Africa and Asia than in northern Europe in this period (see for instance Abu-Lughod, 1989; Frank and Gills, 1992). What is not clear is the relative importance of decay or decline of a feudal or tributary mode of production --class-based agricultural production in landlord-dominated regions -- as against a development of urban production, urban class processes, and so on. I suspect that both were aspects of a single historical process. Probably there is no contradiction between Dobb and Sweezy at a world-system level of analysis.

For these reasons, I argue that Northwestern Europe was not in any sense more developed, or more pregnant with development possibilities, than many other regions prior to 1492. The crisis of the late-medieval feudal or tributary economy seems to have been occurring in many regions. The processes singled out by Brenner for northwestern Europe were going on elsewhere. This was indeed a crisis centered in exploitation and the resistance to it: in class struggle.

Since the great majority of the exploited, the producing class, were peasants, it is certainly true that rural exploitation and rural class struggle were at, or close to, the heart of the matter. But the complex of urban and peri-urban facts and processes, including an emerging urban bourgeoisie and urban working class, merchant activities, manufacturing activities, large-scale long-distance commodity movement, business institutions, and a variable but always significant degree of political autonomy, was also important in its own right: the town was not simply a dependency of the countryside as Brenner implies, nor was it a simple resultant of the emerging crisis in rural feudalism. The urban and peri-urban phenomena were rather unimportant in northern Europe before the High Middle Ages, but they were of immense importance in southern Europe and in Africa and Asia from an early date. The late-medieval urban complex, with an emerging mode of production which is best thought of as incipient or adolescent capitalism, or protocapitalism -- it is not a form of feudalism, and not "simple commodity production" -- was found in many parts of the Eastern Hemisphere. Many cities of Asia and Africa were not only as fully developed toward capitalist production, capitalist class relations, and capitalist commerce, as were the most advanced cities of Europe, but all were connected in a network, a circuit of criss-cross diffusion, extending throughout the hemisphere (Blaut, 1976; Abu-Lughod, 1989). But also very widespread across the hemisphere was the mode of production involving exploitation of rural wage-workers in the production of commodities, sometimes in peri-urban zones, sometimes in purely rural regions. In all of this there is a double-barrelled critique of Brenner's position. Brenner is mistaken in searching for fundamental rural transformation only in northern

Europe: he should search also in Fukien, Vijayanagar, Kilwa, the Nile valley, the Niger valley, etc. But Brenner is mistaken also in dismissing urban transformation in the later Middle Ages, transformations of class, production, and much more, transformations which were going on at perhaps a more impressive rate in southern Europe, Asia, and Africa, than they were in northern Europe.

A number of writers, Marxists and non-Marxists, have argued the broad position which I have just summarized: that processes of change out of something like a feudal or tributary mode of production and toward something like capitalism were occurring in many world regions during the later Middle Ages -- not merely in England -- and were taking place in urban as well as rural regions. My own view, shared by A. G. Frank (1992) and not very different from the views of Abu-Lughod (1989) and Amin (1989), is that the transition was at about the same rate and level in all three continents in 1492.

If, indeed, the processes of historical change out of feudalism and toward capitalism (or something like capitalism) were going on in various parts of the Eastern Hemisphere in the late Middle Ages, and northwestern Europe was in no sense a leader, how do we explain the fact that Europe rose, Africa and Asia did not, and northwestern Europe developed industrial capitalism and empire? My own view focuses, again, on the matter of place: of location, or accessibility. (The arguments which support my view are given in other works, principally Blaut 1976, 1989, and 1993.) We start with a conception of an eastern hemisphere with a number of mercantile-maritime centers, all developing

and all interconnected. Iberian centers were very much closer to the Americas than were any competing centers.17 The wealth from American gold production, silver production, and plantation production, the value squeezed out of American and African and European labor in the process, the additional surplus value squeezed out of labor in the rest of the colonial world, and the resulting accumulation in Europe, allowed Europeans -- an emerging proto-capitalist class, both urban and rural; an incipient bourgeoisie -- to begin the dissolution of feudalism in Europe and begin to destroy competing proto-capitalist communities elsewhere. This beginning, in the 16th and 17th centuries, initiated a set of internal changes within Europe, those which led to a political transformation in the 17th-century bourgeois revolutions and eventually to an industrial revolution and industrial capitalism.


Brenner makes two serious errors. He does not pay attention to class struggle outside of northern Europe. And he does not notice that what was happening in the non-European world after 1492 was class-based commodity production, not merely "commerce."

Euro-Marxism no longer needs Brenner's theory, because Euro-Marxism no longer worries much about the Third World. Euro-Marxism is not entirely sure that the Third World exists (Harris, 1986; Young, 1990). It is not entirely sure that anything exists.


1.  I discuss this issue in The National Question: Decolonizing the Theory of Nationalism, chapters 2, 3, and 4.

2 . Robert Brenner, "Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial England," Past and Present no. 70 (1976); "The origins of capitalist development: A critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism," New Left Review No. 104 (1977); "The agrarian roots of European capitalism," Past and Present no. 97 (1982). In the present essay the two Past and Present articles are cited as Brenner (1985a) and Brenner (1985b), respectively, referring to the republication of the two articles in the volume, The Brenner Debate (Aston and Philpin, 1985). Page citations refer to pages in The Brenner Debate.

3.  T. Aston and C. Philpin, eds., The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe (1985).

4.  See, for instance, Torras (1980), Hoyle (1990).

5.  See, e.g., Corbridge (1986), pp. 38-44.

6.  Early-modern Japan is mentioned once in a citation (Brenner, 1985b: 240n. For a much later period (17th-18th centuries) and in a different context (Brenner's argument that underdevelopment was not inevitable for the colonial world) brief mention is made of Barbados and colonial North America in Brenner (1977).

7.  In Brenner (1985a): "Nor can there be any question but that the Malthusian model, in its own terms, has a certain compelling logic. Malthus's model was correct not for the emergent industrial economy he was analyzing, but for the stagnant backward society from which this had arisen" (p. 14). "In terms of its special premises and the small number of variables it entails, secular Malthusianism seems almost foolproof" (p. 15). "Malthusian theorists have indeed isolated an important pattern of long-term economic development and stability" (p. 18). "The [14th-century] crisis of productivity led to demographic crisis, pushing the population over the edge of subsistence" (p. 33). "[Marked] demographic decline...came to dominate most of Europe...the famous Malthusian 'phase B'" (p. 51). "[The] rising population...[and prices] of the 16th and 17th centuries [led] merely to a renewal of the old Malthusian cycle of underdevelopment" (p. 61). In Brenner (1985b): "My intention [in the 1976 article] was not to deny the existence of [the Malthusian] two-phase cycles; it was to expose the limitations of the neo-Malthusian cum Ricardian models actually explaining the long-term patterns" (p. 217) . "No one would deny that continuing demographic increase in the face of declining labour productivity sooner or later leads to an imbalance between population and resources -- ultimately to poverty, famine and death" (p. 223). "[The] demographic interpreters...[cannot] tell us why their Malthusian premise of the non-development of the productive forces essentially held true throughout a whole epoch, but then ceased to do so" (pp. 224-225). Political centralization "disrupted the 'normal' Malthusian mechanism for bringing population into line with production" (pp. 241-242). "Continuing population growth had eventually to result in widespread poverty and famine" (p. 265). "The acceleration of political centralization...short-circuited the needed Malthusian adjustment" (p. 270). "Dutch agriculture experienced no tendency towards a demographically powered evolution...the familiar Malthusian pattern" (p. 320). The English 17th-century economy had the "capacity to maintain demographic increase beyond the old Malthusian limits" (p. 325). Also see, in Brenner (1985a), pp. 27 and 46; in Brenner (1985b), pp. 227, 230, 236, 269; In Brenner (1977), p. 35.

8.  Except for a brief and inaccurate discussion of Catalonia. See the critique of this discussion in Torras (1980).

9.  I base this on a careful examination of the Brenner texts in Aston and Philpin, noting, for each statement of historical fact, the explicit or implicit date assigned to that fact.

10.  Brenner, 1985a: 32-33, 46, 49-51; 1985b: 214-215, 296-297, 306, 308-311, 315-316. See the critique by Cooper (1985): 141-143.

11.  Eric Kerridge, The Agricultural Revolution (1967) and other works. For an opposing view, see, e.g., Titow (1969). For a critique of Brenner's position, see Croot and Parker (1985); Cooper (1985).

12.  See Brenner (1985b): 309; Brenner (1977): 42; Croot and Parker (1985): 79-90.

13.  Brenner (1985b): 309, 316; Brenner (1977): 42; also see Croot and Parker (1985): 80.

14.  Brenner (1985a): 48-49; (1985b): 228-230, 243-244, 265, 306. For the opposing view of landownership in this period, see J. Cooper (1985): 151-2 and elsewhere; Heide Wunder (1985): 91-100. Also see Hoyle (1990).

15.  Brenner (1985a): 29, 54-55, 59-61; (1985b): 290, 307-311. For a critique, see Croot and Parker (1985); Bois (1985); J. Cooper (1985): 185n.

16.  Brenner (1985a): 49-53, (1985b): 293, 296-302, 315-318. See J. Cooper (1985): 152, 177 ("Brenner sounds like a Tory defender of the Corn Laws"), 189.

17. West African protocapitalist urban centers in 1492 were located well inland; were oriented to land commerce, hence had no major maritime orientation. All other centers which had such a maritime orientation -- principally those of East Africa and Asia -- were much farther from the western hemisphere than were the Iberian centers. See the discussion of this matter in Blaut (1993).


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