As in so many areas of historiography, the years since 1980 have seen major changes in the treatment of the European economy between the end of the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution. This change has not simply been one of new insights replacing the old as a result of the extension and refinement of knowledge about the period. What has happened has been a complete restructuring of the basic ideas and analytical structures within which historians’ understanding of the period is organised. This restructuring is much more than a simple revision of ways of looking at the period because it involves changing perspective on much of the history of the economic development of Europe since the Middle Ages. This new perspective changes the way in which the operation of societies in this period is perceived and interpreted.
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