The market town has been dismissed as an incompletely formed urban community; in fact it was the primary urban unit in pre-industrial England. This study places the market town at the centre of the transformation of early-modern England, both catalysing changes in agriculture and experiencing, in a distinctive fashion, the urbanisation that was to occur a century or more later in the great industrial and commercial centres of Europe. In the two centuries after 1500 the rural economy changed from a pattern of subsistence to 'improved' farming. The first great enclosures took place during this time, but the economic base for this revolution was the growth of local trading, centred on markets and local communications networks. This redistribution of produce, provisions and information was the motor of specialisation and hence modernisation. The strength of this study is in its detailed research into this process in one representative locality, and the sensitive extrapolation of local experiences on to the national and European scale. By integrating in one book the themes of rural transformation and early urbanisation this account of one typical midland market town demonstrates the continuing vigour of the discipline of local history.
Contents: Introduction; Urban and rural communities; Population and poverty; The farming economy; The town economy; Town and village; The peasant economy transformed; Notes; Bibliography; Index.