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Leo Gershoy


Harper Torchbook, NYC, 1944, 355 pgs., index, notes, bibliography, illustrations, map, paperback


Reviewer comment
This book continues from Dorn's history from 1740-1763. The same trends are shown. In politics it continues what Philip Bobbitt termed the era of the 'territorial state' (Shield of Achilles). This includs the theoretical - philosophical argument for the legitimacy of the 'state' which expanded even more after the despotic nature of the ruling elite was overthrown in the revolutionary era. The content is rather slim on description of the economic sphere. There is a brief discussion on merchants in chapter 2, and commerce in chapter 4. But this dies give more detail to Dr. McCloskey's description of the bourgeoisie.
The main subject is the solidification of the 'state' as dominant over society. And the extensive description of the development of 'territorial state' by Prussia is important is learning about how the Prussian and later German conception came to such widespread influence, even today.


Chapter 1 - The Rulers and the Governments


Chapter 2 - State and Society
I The Aristocracy and the Squirearchy;

"Each state was a social pyrimid, the base restingpon the peasantry, the aristocracy constituting the apex, and the urban b ourgeoisie between them"

II Agrarian Relations and the Peasantry;

III Merchant Capitalism and the Middle Classes

"The outlook of the middle classes was manifestly different. England comes first to mind when one thinks of the urban middle classes and economic advance, for it was already capitalist in spirit well before the coming of machinery. The country possessed a large supply of capital and made advanced use of credit. It had an elaborate system for supplying raw maerials ande disposing of finished goods, while in a growing population, dislocated by the agricultural revolution, it had a cheap and plentiful labor supply. Private merchant capitalism had already financed and organized large enterprises in shipbuilding, mining, and metallurgy, sugar refining and distilling, and in the producion of woolens and fustians. But large-scale production was still in the offing, and even the putting-out system was the exception rather than the rule".
Most workers outside agruculture were skilled craftsmen in private practice.
"Unskilled workers were in the minority even in the rapidly growing woolen industries, which were soon to suck in thousands of the untrained".
"The cotton industry was in its infancy, requiring comparatively few operatives. Iron mining remained handicapped by its bondage to charcoal, and coal mining waited upon still greater technical improvements. Yet the day of the entrepreneur and the capitalistic industrialist was soon to come, to weaken the independence and nullify the influence of petty master craftsmen and domestic producers and introduce large-scale production".
"The accumulations of merchant capital meantine effected a profound revolution in English life. The improvement of river and coastal facilities had stimlated internal trade, and England and Scotland, functioning as a single economic unit, formed the largest customs-free trading area in Europe".
"Colossal were the profits from that trade and investment; in spices and sugar, rum, slaves and tobacco, furs and fish, indigo and drugs, naval stores and notions; above all, from the huge capital invesments in the East india Company, the fifty millions of dollars in the northern American colonies, and the three hundred million in the southern colonies and the West Indies. This wealth brought undreamed of luxury to the fortunate few, while on the many it bestowed comfort far beyond comparison with continental living".
"Wealth leveled social distinctions, stirring the ranks of the old landed aristocracy and fashioning a new plutocracy, hard and brutally courageous, endowed with immense viality and imbued with a deep sense that in this competition rewards went to the enterprising, the imaginative, and those not scrupulous to excess. Georgian England was a creation of their own initiative. They created it without requiring the stimulus of inter-state competitive militarism to spur English economic activity. nor did the crown count for much in this magnificent flowering. It neither provided subsidies nor imposed the supervisory hand of regulation. The powerful mercantile oligarchy and landed aristocracy, joined with the new capitalists, conducted their business affairs as they did the political administration, with a minimum of interference by the king".
"Similar changes were transforming Bourbon France. Wholesale trade within the country and almost all its immensely lucrative international trade were controlled by the great bourgeois families and their associates".

Dr. Gershoy continuew with descriptions of the bourgeois advancement in other parts of Europe.


Chapter 3 - The Mandates of Security and Power


Chapter 4 - The Search for Security: The German Model
The following sections treat on various aspects of the Prussian state economy

I The Tap Roots of Prussianism;
II Agricultural Policy;
III Commerce, Manufacture and Finance;
IV The Price of Glory;
V Enlightened Absolutism in Austria: The Co-regency, 1765-1780;
VI Joseph as Sole Ruler: Civil and Judicial Administration;
VII The Peasantry and the Land Question;
VIII Commerce and Industry;
IX Balance Sheets of the Despotism of Virtue


Chapter 5 - The Foundations of Power in Eastern Europe
I The Accession of Catherine II;
II The Social Bases of the Administrative System;
III The Peasantry and the Land Question;
IV Trade and Industry;
V "Enlightened Liberty" in Poland;
VI The Scandinavian States: Sweden and Denmark


Chapter 6 - Latin Europe


Chapter 7 - War and Peace


Chapter 8 - Of Human Welfare


Chapter 9 - Literature and the Arts


Chapter 10 - Faith, Hope, and Charity in Secular Dress


Chapter 11 - Constitutional Liberalism Affirmed


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