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We leave them as riddles for the reader, with the words which a sixteenth century economist prettily prefaces to his analysis of the chief economic problems of his age:—“And albeit ye might well saye that there be men of greater witte then I; yet fools (as the proverb is) speake some times to the purpose, and as many headdes, so many wittes ... and though eche of theise by them selves doe not make perfitte the thing, yet when every man bringeth in his guifte, a meane witted man maye of the whole (the best of everie mans devise beinge gathered together) make as it were a pleasant garland and perfitte.” ...Chapters II., III. and IV. will discuss in some detail the economic positions of the customary tenants both before and during the sixteenth century, the reasons for supposing that there had been a considerable growth in the prosperity of many of them before our period begins, and the gradual modification in the customary conditions of rural life, as illustrated both by the growth of competitive payments on those parts of the manor which were least controlled by custom, and by the attempts made by the peasantry themselves to overcome by enclosure the difficulties attaching to the methods of open field cultivation. ...It warns a student of the agrarian changes of the sixteenth century that he has not only to explain the way in which the small cultivator lost ground then before the large estate, but also how it was that his economic position differed in many cases so much from that of the villein of two hundred years before, and that it may very well be that the answer to the latter question will throw light upon the former.
About Richard Henry Tawney, the Author:
Tawney (30 November 1880 – 16 January 1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, Christian socialist, and an important proponent of adult education. ...The characteristic doctrine was one, in fact, which left little room for religious teaching as to economic morality, because it anticipated the theory, later epitomized by Adam Smith in his famous reference to the invisible hand, which saw in economic self-interest the operation of a providential plan… The existing order, except in so far as the short-sighted enactments of Governments interfered with it, was the natural order, and the order established by nature was the order established by God.