The Intellectual History of Property Rights

The classical economists strongly supported the idea of private property. The idea was less well received in the nineteenth century: John Stuart Mill and Alfred Marshall were skeptical of it, and Karl Marx rejected it entirely. The twentieth century saw another reversal of opinion…

Feudalism

Feudalism was the economic and political system of Europe during the Middle Ages. One might be tempted to dismiss it as a primitive system, discarded when something better came along, but to do so would be to misunderstand human institutions…

The Emergence of European States

From the fall of the Roman Empire until at least 1100 AD, there was nothing in Europe that could be called a state. States emerged in England and France over the period 1100-1300, and later in other parts of Europe. They showed early signs of constitutional government, but some countries veered towards authoritarianism under the financial stress of the fifteenth-century military revolution…

The Institutionalization of Science in Europe

In the time between the Scientific Revolution and World War II, almost every major advance in modern science was made by scientists who were culturally European…

Science and Society in China and the Islamic World

Science must be integrated into the fabric of society — institutionalized — if it is to succeed over the longer term. Science was successfully institutionalized in Europe during the twelfth century. China and the Islamic world were at different times the world leader in science, but neither society institutionalized it, and science eventually faltered in both societies…

Reining In the Kings

The security of person and property is an essential aspect of property rights. That security was endangered during Europe’s Middle Ages by, among other things, the predatory behaviour of kings…

Economic Ideology and the Glorious Revolution

The Glorious Revolution changed the way that the English thought about their economy. The proponents of an economic ideology that justified the power of the landowners became less influential. The proponents of an ideology that emphasized the value of labour, and the role of manufacturing and trade in realizing this value, became more influential…