Ch 06 The New Monarchy and the Bourgeoise

Ch.06-The New Monarchy and the Bourgeoisie

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CHAPTER VI: NEW MONARCHY AND THE BOURGEOISIE

SECTION 3:
THE AGRARIAN REVOLUTION

 

WE HAVE TO LOOK BOTH WAYS IN HISTORY SOMETIMES, TOWARDS THE PAST AND THE FUTURE, IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT.

THE 16th CENTURY WAS A TRANSITIONAL PERIOD, WHEN FEUDALISM JOSTLED WITH CAPITALISM.

BUT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DESCRIBING IN THE DECLINE OF FEUDALISM IS NOT THE FORMATION OF CAPITALISM BUT THE DEVELOPMENT OF CONDITIONS OUT OF WHICH IT AROSE:

THE CREATION OF THE FREE MARKET FOR THE PRODUCTION AND SALE OF COMMODITIES.

NOTHING WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LAND AND HUMAN LABOUR. SINCE ENGLAND WAS OVERWHELMINGLY AGRICULTURAL, THE TWO WENT HAND IN HAND.

FEUDAL AGRICULTURE HAD BEEN LARGELY COLLECTIVE, BASED ON THE PLOUGH TEAM AND THE JOINT CULTIVATION OF THE COMMON LANDS.

WE LEARNED ABOUT THE BREAK UP OF THE MANOR AND THE ONSET OF WAGE LABOUR DURING AND AFTER THE BLACK PLAGUE, AND WE ALSO LEARNED ABOUT THE SHORTAGE OF LABOUR.

ENCLOSURES WERE NOT NEW OR GREATER IN THE 16th CENTURY THAN THEY WERE IN THE 14th CENTURY.

MUCH LAND REMAINED IN THE OPEN FIELD SYSTEM UNTIL THE END OF THE 18th CENTURY.

YET THE TUDOR ENCLOSURES HAVE DECISIVE IMPORTANCE.

THE AMOUNT OF LAND TRANSFERRED FROM THE OPEN FIELD TO ENCLOSURE AND FROM ARABLE TO PASTURE CREATED A SITUATION WHERE LABOUR WAS NOT REQUIRED.

THIS COINCIDED WITH A GROWTH IN POPULATION TO ABOUT FIVE MILLION, THE MAXIMUM THE LAND WOULD SUPPORT UNDER THE PREVIOUS MODE OF PRODUCTION.

SOCIAL CHANGE WAS INEVITABLE.

THE RISE IN PRICES AS A RESULT OF THE INFLUX OF GOLD AND SILVER FROM EUROPE HAD THE EFFECT OF DOUBLING PROFITS AND HALVING WAGES.

TUDOR ‘PROSPERITY’ WAS IN FACT A TRANSFER OF WEALTH FROM THE LABOURING MASSES TO THE SMALL CLASS OF MERCHANTS AND CAPITALIST FARMERS.

THE RISE IN PRICES SPEEDED UP THE ENCLOSURE OF LAND AS IT BECAME MORE VALUABLE.

FARM RENTS AND WAGES LAGGED FAR BEHIND PRICES UNTIL IT WAS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR A FARMER TO AVOID MAKING A FORTUNE.

(READ SIR THOMAS MORE IN HIS BOOK ‘UTOPIA’ WHERE HE DESCRIBES ABJECT POVERTY, BEGGING AND HANGING.)

THE ARMY OF THE LANDLESS - PROPERTYLESS MEN - HAD WIDE RANGING IMPACT.

HENRY VII SET OUT TO BREAK UP BANDS OF RETAINERS KEPT BY THE GREAT NOBLES TO PREVENT CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WARS.

THIS WAS SUCCESSFUL AS THE NOBLES TURNED TO PEACEFUL MANAGEMENT OF THEIR ESTATES AND ARMIES OF RETAINERS WERE AN UNNECESSARY EXPENSE TO BE GOT RID OF AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

THESE UNEMPLOYED TURNED TO ROBBERY, AS THEY WERE THE MOST IDLE AND DISREPUTABLE SECTIONS OF SOCIETY.

THE EXPROPRIATED PEASANTRY TRIED TO FIND OTHER WORK, BUT IT WAS THESE ROBBERS WHO PROVIDED SOME JUSTIFICATION FOR SAVAGE LAWS DIRECTED AGAINST BEGGARS.

THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTRIES IN 1536 AND 1539 SET THOUSANDS ADRIFT, BUT MONASTIC SERVANTS WERE THE MOST UNFORTUNATE.

IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 16th CENTURY, ENGLAND WAS FACED WITH MASS UNEMPLOYMENT. NO WORK COULD BE FOUND.

IN TIME, PEOPLE WERE ABSORBED INTO THE CLOTH INDUSTRY OR THE COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES OF THE TOWNS, BUT IT WAS A SLOW PROCESS.

CAPITALISM DID NOT WANT A FREE AND PROSPEROUS PEASANTRY BUT “A DEGRADED AND SERVILE CONDITION OF THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THEM INTO MERCENARIES, AND THEIR MEANS OF LABOUR INTO CAPITAL.” MARX,CAPITAL I /744.

PENAL LAWS AGAINST THE UNEMPLOYED WERE EFFECTIVE, HOWEVER USELESS AS A REMEDY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT. IN 1536, ‘STURDY VAGABONDS’ WOULD HAVE THEIR EARS CUT OFF AND DEATH WAS FOR A THIRD OFFENCE.

IN 1547, ANYONE WHO REFUSED TO WORK WAS FORCED TO BE A SLAVE OF WHOEVER DENOUNCED HIM. FORCED TO WORK WITH WHIP AND CHAIN, HE WAS BRANDED IF HE TRIED TO ESCAPE.

IN 1572, UNLICENSED BEGGARS OF 14 OR OVER WERE FLOGGED AND BRANDED UNLESS SOMEONE WAS WILLING TO EMPLOY THEM. FOR A SECOND OFFENCE, THEY WERE EXECUTED.

BY THE END OF THE CENTURY, A CHANGE WAS NOTICED. MANY WERE EMPLOYED IN THE TOWNS’ INDUSTRIES, AND THIS INCREASED THE DEMAND FOR BREAD.

THERE WAS EVEN A SHORTAGE OF SKILLED AGRICULTURAL LABOUR AS A RESULT OF MEN HAVING BEEN DRIVEN FROM THE LAND.

WAGES WERE FIXED BY LAW, AND IN 1572 AN ACT FOR THE LEVY OF A COMPULSORY POOR RATE WAS PASSED.

THE FAMOUS POOR LAW OF 1601 DID LITTLE EXCEPT KEEP THE POOR IN POVERTY AND THE APPRENTICING OF PAUPER CHILDREN. THE POOR RATE, WORKHOUSE AND SETTLEMENT OF THE PARISH REMAINED UNTIL THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

WEALTH WAS ACCUMULATED AT AN OBSCENE RATE, THE BOURGEOISIE HAVING NOW SECURED A FIRM BASE. HOWEVER, THEIR VICTORY WAS NOT WON WITHOUT DESPERATE STRUGGLES.

THE PEASANT RISING OF THE 16th CENTURY STARTED WITH THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE IN 1536. IT WAS A REACTIONARY CATHOLIC MOVEMENT, BUT IT WAS AIMED AGAINST THE REFORMATION AND THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTRIES.

THE GOVERNMENT HAD NO STANDING ARMY TO TAKE TO THE FIELD BUT WERE SAVED BY SUPPORT FROM THE PROTESTANT SOUTH AND EAST AND THE SIMPLICITY OF THE REBELS.

HOWEVER, THE NORFOLK AGRARIAN RISINGS WERE DIFFERENT. ON 15th JUNE 1549, THEY STARTED BY FARMERS PULLING DOWN FENCES OF NEIGHBOURING FARMERS. KETT THEN PROVED A CAPABLE ORGANISER, BUILDING AN ARMY OF 20,000 MEN.

THE GOVERNMENT COULDN’T MUSTER HALF THAT NUMBER.

AFTER A BATTLE LASTING TWO DAYS, THE GOVERNMENT MANAGED TO ASSEMBLE 12,000 MEN

UNDER THE EARL OF WARWICK, LATER KNOWN AS THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND, THE GREATEST SCOUNDREL WHO EVER GOVERNED ENGLAND. THE CAVALRY BROKE THE PEASANTS.

KETT, WHO HAD BEEN IN FROM THE BEGINNING, WAS HANGED, AS WERE HUNDREDS OF OTHERS.

WARWICK’S BRUTALITY COULD NOT SATISFY SOME.

THOUGH THE RISING WAS SUPPRESSED, IT HELPED STAY THE ENCLOSURES AND GAVE EAST ANGLIA A PREDOMINANTLY PEASANT CHARACTER, WHICH IT LONG PRESERVED. THIS EFFECTIVELY MADE IT A STRONGHOLD FOR PARLIAMENT IN THE CIVIL WAR. IT ALSO PROVIDED THE MOST ADVANCED SECTION OF THE NEW MODEL ARMY.

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