The debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, originallypublished in Science and Society in the early 1950s, is one of the mostfamous episodes in the development of Marxist historiography since thewar. It ranged such distinguished contributors as Maurice Dobb, Paul Sweezy, Kohachiro Takahashi and Christopher Hill against each other ina common, critical discussion. Verso has now published the completetexts of the original debate, to which subsequent discussion has returnedagain and again, together with significant new materials produced byhistorians since then.
These include articles on the same themes by such French and Italian historians as Georges Lefebvre and Giuliano Procacci. What was the role of trade in the Dark Ages? How did feudal rentsevolve during the Middle Ages? Where should the economic origins ofmediaeval towns be sought? Why did serfdom eventually disappear inWestern Europe? What was the exact relationship between city andcountryside in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? How shouldthe importance of overseas expansion be assessed for the 'primitiveaccumulation of capital' in Europe? When should the first bourgeoisrevolutions be dated, and which social classes participated in them? Allthese, and many other vital questions for every student of mediaeval andmodern history, are widely and freely explored.
Finally, for the new Verso edition, Rodney Hilton, author of Bond MenMade Free, has written a special introductory essay, reconsidering andsummarising relevant scholarship in the two decades since the publicationof the original discussion. The result is a book that will be essential forhistory courses, and fascinating for the general reader.