A History of Wealth and Poverty: Why a Few Nations are Rich and Many Poor, by John P. Powelson.

Appendixes for Chapter 4

Appendix 4.1: Historical References to Vertical Alliances and the Use of Leverage by Groups in Europe other than Peasants

  1. In 1376, the English House of Commons, previously an institution only to collect taxes, gathered its political forces to attack the idea of purveyance, or the king's right to commandeer supplies while traveling. In doing so, it sought the support of the House of Lords, which contained a rival faction to John of Gaunt, the power behind the throne. The complaint was soon intermixed with charges of corruption. In this interchange, parliament established its ability to impeach officers of the crown. [25]

  2. "Every town [in western Europe] had a putative lord — a king, count, bishop, or pope — and these figures, maintaining some tenuous or quite real rights in the town, were hence in the enviable position of entertaining appeals against the tyranny of the commune. For example, a guild might make an end run around the town government and attempt to secure justice or recognition from the lord." [26]

  3. De Tocqueville observed that "by reason of the political freedom obtaining in England, the aristocracy and the lower orders were obliged to maintain contact with each other so as to be able to join forces if and when the need arose. [This demonstrated] the skill with which the English nobility, in order to safeguard their position, were quite ready, whenever it seemed advisable, to fraternize with the common people and to profess regard for them as equals." [27]

  4. "Urban guilds tried to enhance their prospects by attacking rural industry, but rural townspeople and villagers were capable of finding allies of their own, occasionally the count of Flanders, to defend their right to make a living." [28]

  5. Tuchman tells how, in the fourteenth century, the petty bourgeois on the one hand and the masters and merchants ruling in French towns on the other would appeal to the working classes for support in their struggles with each other. [29]

  6. In medieval towns, popular participation by all groups tended to be valued by any one group, whether rich or poor, since the hard-won liberties of the commune could be sustained only by the harmony of all classes within it. Black [30] cites Clemens Jaeger of Augsburg, who wrote about 1500-61: As "God gives his graces to rich and poor alike, using both as overseers of his church, so too is it only just that, 'following God's ordinance in regard to vocation to city government,' all those endowed by God with 'understanding, wisdom, and honesty' should be eligible for office."

  7. Nevertheless, Jews were often discriminated against in those towns. Frequently, however, they would call upon the crown or the pope to support them against the oppression of the city government. [31] Jews were also defended in court cases by Christians whom they had treated honestly and reasonably. [32]

  8. The Merchant Adventurers bargained with both Antwerp and Bergen-op-Zoom at the turn of the sixteenth century, to locate in the city that offered it more privileges. [33]

  9. Mary I of England (r.1553-58) gave more latitude to parliament, increasing its prestige, in order to gain support for her proposed (but unsuccessful) reconciliation with the pope. [34]

  10. Promises of official recognition of the Scottish Presbyterian Church were made by both sides in the English civil war (1640-49). The sweeping reforms accepted by Charles I included limitations to his own power in Scotland. Parliament agreed to reforms in English church government favorable to the Scots. [35]

  11. When the Estates General met in Versailles in 1789, in the months preceding the French Revolution, a first question was whether the three estates would vote separately, so that the first two (nobles and clergy) might outvote the third (commoners), or whether they would vote by head, with the third estate holding an amount of votes (six hundred) equal to the other two combined (three hundred each). With only a few defections from the other two estates, the third might win a vote. Louis XVI favored the former. But the latter was agreed upon after parish priests had supported the third estate against the more privileged.

  12. Dennis Smith [36] attributes Birmingham's lead over Sheffield in post-industrial-revolution economic development to its more complex pattern of shifting alliances and the more sophisticated way in which organized interest groups negotiated with each other.

Appendix 4.2: Historical References to Power Enhancement through Bargaining by Weaker Groups in Europe without Use of Leverage

  1. In England, the House of Commons, with some support from the Lords, refused to pass a subsidy to finance the Hundred Years' War in 1376 until the king redressed 146 grievances. [37] The war was considered a project of the king rather than a vital emergency affecting all citizens.

  2. In England and the Netherlands, and later in France, trading agglomerations increased the power of entrepreneurs relative to nobility and kings. Merchants of the Staple and Merchant Adventurers carried elements of sovereignty on to the European continent. Companies such as the East India Company did the same in the sixteenth century and thereafter. The goods they could bring to the upper classes, such as tea, and the service they provided in war, such as piracy against Spain in the sixteenth century, brought them greater prestige and bargaining ability. The growth of financial institutions further decentralized economic power.

  3. "In France [in the seventeenth century], there were limits to the burdens which peasants would bear without revolting and to the amount the crown could squeeze out of its officials without seriously disrupting tax collections and law enforcement. . . . In England, the king could not press JPs and militia officers too hard, or he would meet obstruction and resignations from office. The collection of money, especially ship money, depended on taxpayers' willingness to pay." [38]

  4. Although the French monarchy was well centralized by the time of Louis XIV (r.1643-1715), nevertheless he was neither capricious nor absolute. France then enjoyed many federal principles, for outlying provinces retained their own customs. "Having issued its orders, the [king's] council often found difficulty in having them obeyed. Local officials delayed and equivocated; the intendants tried to make them act, but they could not be everywhere." [39]

  5. By the seventeenth century, the power of local parlements (which combined judicial and administrative functions) was entrenched in France. By the eighteenth century, orders passed on by the king to local authorities were increasingly ignored, and the lit de justice, earlier a principal form of issuing such orders, fell into disuse. [40]

  6. Governmental offices were often sold to replenish the state treasury, especially in France. However, each time this occurred the king would lose a little power to the officeholder. He no longer could hire and fire at will, for if he fired someone who had bought an office, the process would lose credibility. [41]

  7. Before the nineteenth century, European governments from time to time substituted regular taxation for arbitrary exactions. Almost always this happened at the behest of the bourgeoisie, sometimes in armed revolt. Rarely did it occur on the volition of the government. [42]


Copyright © 1994 by the University of Michigan. First published in the USA by the University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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