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  • Print publication year: 1977
  • Online publication date: March 2008

CHAPTER I - The Historical Study of Economic Growth and Decline in Early Modern History


Recent decades have seen important changes in the objectives, techniques and methodologies of economic history in Europe. Early modern history, the age of the modern state, has traditionally been for economic historians the age of the mercantilist state and economy. The concept of mercantilism, a complex of ideas and policies designed to achieve national power and, ostensibly, wealth, has long been a source of controversy amongst historians. In recent economic historiography it is the village, or region, or continent which has tended to become the 'sites' most appropriate to the techniques and objectives of historians trying to fit together the diverse elements in particular socio-economic historical situations. This chapter reviews new techniques that have been used to help explain the growth or decline of national economies, very successfully in the case of the Dutch Republic, the economic prodigy of Europe from the 1590s, and of seventeenth-century France; partially in the case of Spain.
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