The debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, originally published in Science and Society in the early 1950s, is one of the most famous episodes in the development of Marxist historiography since the war. It ranged such distinguished contributors as Maurice Dobb, Paul Sweezy, Kohachiro Takahashi and Christopher Hill against each other in a common, critical discussion. Verso has now published the complete texts of the original debate, to which subsequent discussion has returned again and again, together with significant new materials produced by historians 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 rents evolve during the Middle Ages? Where should the economic origins of mediaeval towns be sought? Why did serfdom eventually disappear in Western Europe? What was the exact relationship between city and countryside in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? How should the importance of overseas expansion be assessed for the 'primitive accumulation of capital' in Europe? When should the first bourgeois revolutions be dated, and which social classes participated in them? All these, and many other vital questions for every student of mediaeval and modern history, are widely and freely explored.
Finally, for the new Verso edition, Rodney Hilton, author of Bond Men Made Free, has written a special introductory essay, reconsidering and summarising relevant scholarship in the two decades since the publication of the original discussion. The result is a book that will be essential for history courses, and fascinating for the general reader.