Our Fiscal Roots

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Our Fiscal Roots

If the political history of the Anglo-Saxon period is obscure, its economic history is doubly so. We do not know what happened to the Britons; how far they were driven out, how far slaughtered, how far enslaved. Perhaps some sort of town life still went on in London and the other cities of the Roman era; perhaps they were, for a time, all deserted. We do not know. But on the whole the break seems to be a clear one. The invaders appear to have avoided the settlements of the Britons and to have set up their dwellings on new sites; outside the far west, practically all English place-names are Anglo-Saxon, Danish or Jutish in origin. Hardly any are Roman or Celtic. But apart from this and a few other inferences of the same kind we have nothing but guesswork, more or less probable, about the economic arrangements of pre-Conquest England.

It would be wrong, however, to dismiss this period as unimportant merely because it was obscure. It was a seed-time both for England and for Europe as a whole; for during these years there grew up all the economic institutions which we find in the Middle Ages proper. The manor, the gild, the town and the Church - the greatest of all medieval economic institutions - all the elements of the highly civilized, highly complicated society of Medieval Europe - came into being out of the chaos of the so-called Dark Ages. By the eleventh century, though there was much which was primitive and even savage in the economic organization of England, all its main features for the next four hundred years at least were sufficiently well defined for us to study them and give such account as we can I of their development. Let us begin.

What next? - Scientific Agriculture.


BY the middle of the eighteenth century England had ceased to be the backward country she still had been in the late sixteenth century.

She had developed a foreign trade commensurate with that of any country in the world; London, still growing, had become one of the first, if not the first city in the world, and the leading financial and banking centre; two prospective rivals, Holland and France, had been outstripped.

A new Colonial Empire had been built up in North America and the West Indies, standing in the same relation to England as that in which she herself had stood towards civilized... see: INDUSTRY, BANKING AND PUBLIC FINANCE

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