Since the turn of the century, historians have shown considerable interest in the origins of a capitalistic outlook in Europe. The Werner Sombart - Max Weber debate indicated that Europe had experienced the ‘emergence of a unique mental attitude towards economic activity’ sometime between the later Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era. The importance of Max Weber's Protestant Ethic (1904) to the literature on the spirit of capitalism needs little commentary, since a clutter of expository works on his thesis already exists. Weber's Ethic gave rise to three schools of opinion concerning the period during which capitalistic attitudes began to flourish. One group of historians, still dominant, has claimed that new economic values first appeared in the course of the sixteenth century, especially in Calvinist portions of Europe. Another set of students has disagreed, finding that spokesmen truly began to assert these ideals later, in seventeenth-century forms of Puritanism or in eighteenth-century expressions of individualism. The third interpretation declares that an altered scheme of economic values appeared during the Renaissance and later Middle Ages. The mass of material produced by the first two schools has all but obliterated the small but significant literature of the third. Sufficient evidence is now available, however, to warrant a fresh evaluation of the formative stages of this change. The purpose of this essay, then, is three-fold: it intends to outline the present state of scholarly opinion about the earliest appearance of new economic attitudes, to offer a new survey of the evidence from a different perspective, and, finally, to suggest causes for the change.